Our allegorical painting depicts an attractive young woman, richly dressed holding a parrot and embodying the sens of Touch.
Seated, three-quarter-length, she looks at the parrot on her right hand. With green plumage and some red feathers, he nibbles her finger, while the young woman keeping her eyes on the bird, raises her left arm and opens her hand with long fingers in a theatrical gesture.
Like a sovereign, she is adorned with a multitude of jewels and precious stones: large pearls in both ears, imposing bracelets, a pearl pendant around her neck. Her hair is held by a diadem decorated with sapphires, rubies and pearls looking like a crown; the sophisticated veil, embroidered with gold threads, hanging in her hair falls behind her back. An ermine carelessly worn on the right shoulder enhances the majestic effect of the model. A jewel fastened to the corset and a golden belt with crimped sapphires complete her finery. The red velvet of her dress with heavy draperies and the shiny satin create numerous folds. The painter enhances with luminous brushes the crests of the fabric bringing volume and movement to the composition.
The lighting is imbued with a Caravaggio tone with pronounced contrasts of white chairs, sublimated fabrics and shadows. This treatment of the chiaroscuro associated with brilliant and intense colors, the vigor of sculptural modeling, these are perfectly recognizable elements of the Caravaggesque style associated to the Nordic Mannerism of Abraham Janssens.
Antwerp, first half of the 17th century.
Workshop of Abraham Janssens (Antwerp, c. 1575 - 1632)
Oil on oak panel, dimensions of the panel: h. 61.5 cm, l. 47 cm
17th century style giltwood frame with foliage decoration.
Dimensions with the frame: h. 73 cm, l. 59 cm
In the secular art of the Renaissance, the world presents itself to man with his sensuality exalting the senses and the hedonistic pleasure. The allegory of touch is part of a series of five paintings featuring the feminine personifications of the senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste. In 17th century, these series of paintings built around the theme of the five senses are particularly popular. Their composition can appeal to allegories completely codified. There is an animal code: the deer is the hearing, the eagle or the cat the sight, the dog is the smell, the monkey personifies the taste, the hawk and the parrot the touch. Objects can hold the same role: the mirror for the sight, the flowers for the smell, the musical instruments for the hearing, the fruits or the wine for the taste, the dice, the cards or a statuette for the to touch.
The parrot is associated with the sense of the Touch because of its very particular way, for a bird, to eat carrying a claw towards its beak.
Faced with growing demand, several serie of the five senses were executed by Abraham Janssens and his workshop. They are present in the numerous European and international museums and private collections. Concerning the Allegory of Touch, a version by the master itself is in the Rychnov castle in the Czech Republic as well as in the Granja Palace, Spain; workshop version at the Museum of Fine Arts in Chambéry.
Abraham Janssens (Antwerp, c. 1575-1632), painter of history, allegorical, mythological and religious subjects. He received his first training at the painter Jan Snellinck. After a three-year study stay in Rome, then in the midst of the Caravaggesque movement, he returned to Antwerp in 1601, and was immediately admitted as a master at the Guild of Saint Luke. Very soon, strong of his Italian experience he will prevail, alongside Ambrosius Francken and Otto van Veen, as leader of the Antwerp school, maintaining the tradition of the monumental painting as opposed to the contemporary development of the small format genre painting. First attracted by Mannerism, Janssens is one of the first painters to introduce Caravagism in Flanders. Having become master of chiaroscuro, his painting is made of strong contrasts of light and shadow.