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Smell (Portrait of Lucas Fayd'herbe)
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. In each of these paintings Gonzales Coques has used a traditional activity to represent the relevant sense.

Here, pipe smoking could indicate either Taste (as it does in another series by Coques, now in the Brukenthal National Museum, Sibiu) or Smell. This figure is widely assumed to represent Smell, because another painting in the series, which shows a man with a wine glass and oysters, is almost certainly intended as Taste.

It is also believed to be a portrait of the sculptor Lucas Fayd'herbe (1617–1697), as it resembles another portrait of him by Coques that was published as an engraving in 1661. Two of the other four paintings have been identified as painters, so it’s possible that all the sitters in the series were artists.

Key facts
Artist Gonzales Coques
Artist dates 1614/18 - 1684
Full title Smell (Portrait of Lucas Fayd'herbe)
Series The Five Senses
Date made before 1661
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 25.3 x 19.3 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1882
Inventory number NG1117
Location in Gallery Not on display
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The Five Senses

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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.

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