As part of the recently closed exhibition in the Prado Museum, “Enclosed Beauty. From Fra Angelico to Fortuny,” Alejandro Vergara, the conservation chief of Flemish painting and the northern schools in the Prado, comments the five curious paintings composing “The Senses” (1617-18), painted jointly by two illustrious friends: Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder, son of Pieter Bruegel. This painting (“Allegory of Sight”) was in part an homage to the Hapsburg Archdukes reigning in the Burgundian court of Flanders at the time (seen in the double portrait at the extreme left of the painting). This series of not-quite-miniature works was proposed by Bruegel to his friend Rubens, 11 years younger, and must be considered the former’s project. The five paintings were executed meticulously, on occasions with brushes with a single hair, in the tradition of the Flemish miniaturists, one of whom was Bruegel’s grandmother, who formed him as a painter after his father’s early death.
Video courtesy of the Prado Museum