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Gonzales Coques, Hearing

Key facts
Full title Hearing
Artist Gonzales Coques
Artist dates 1614/18 - 1684
Series The Five Senses
Date made before 1661
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 25.1 × 19.4 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1882
Inventory number NG1115
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Gonzales Coques

This is one of five paintings intended to hang together, each of which denotes one of the five senses – a common theme for painting in the Low Countries in the seventeenth century. Gonzales Coques used a traditional activity to represent the relevant sense; here, we see a lutanist with a musical score on the table. This must be Hearing.

The painting is also believed to be a portrait and the sitter has been identified as Jan Philip van Thielen (1618–1677), who specialised in making flower paintings. Perhaps he was also genuinely a musician, because Coques depicted the same man as Hearing in a similar series (Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp). The identification is based on an engraving of another portrait of van Thielen published in 1661. Two of the other four paintings have also been identified as a painter and a sculptor, so it’s possible that all the sitters in the series were artists.

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The Five Senses


This is a series of five small pictures which represent the senses: taste, touch, hearing, smell and sight. Many paintings on this theme were made in the Low Countries in the seventeenth century, and Gonzales Coques painted the series more than once.

A man engaged in a relevant activity represents each sense – Hearing, for example, is a musician. The figures appear to be portraits and, while we can't now identify them all, it may be that each picture shows an artist. All those that have been identified depict contemporary painters or sculptors – the figure of Sight is a portrait of Robert van den Hoeke (1622–1668), a painter who worked in Antwerp.

The pictures appear to have been designed to hang in a particular way. Two men face to the right, two to the left; one – Touch – sits facing the viewer, and was presumably intended to be hung as the central image flanked by the others.