The Museo del Prado

Sight (1617)
Jan Brueghel “the Elder” and Peter Paul Rubens
Source: Museo del Prado

The Museo del Prado deserves a long time to enjoy all the masterpieces which can be found in it. There are a lot of very important paintings and we can also find some mathematical ones which aren’t the most important pieces of the museum but also deserve a moment in the time of a mathematical tourist. This is the case of Ruben’s Sight. According to the web of the Museum:

This set of paintings on the five senses was one of the most successful collaborations of Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel “the elder.”

Rubens placed his figures in the magnificent courtly scenes created by Brueghel as settings for these allegories of the senses, resulting in a series of enormous quality and esthetic appeal. The subject was widely employed in Flemish painting.

Sight was considered the most important of the senses since the time of Aristotle. Here, Cupid shows Venus a painting on a Christian therme, The Healing of the Blind Man, which alludes to the recovery of sight through one of Christ’s miracles and thus touches on both physical and spiritual vision.

The presence of a canvas with Saint Cecilia, a copy of Raphael’s original, alongside some Roman busts, recalls the soul’s introspective vision, an image of chastity and virtue.

Jan Brueghel was a protégé of the Archdukes Alberto and Isabel Clara Eugenia, and in this work he includes their portraits and a view of their Palace at Mariemont.

This work is signed on a paper close to the goddess’s seat.

The painting has a lot of mathematical details which I want to show to you. For example, there are a portable sundial, some compasses and a quadrant on the table in the lower left corner:

Detail of the painting

Detail of the painting

There also are one compass more on the floor next to the table with a homothetic ruler and an astrolabe next to it:

Detail of the painting

Detail of the painting

There is an armilar sphere on the cupboard behind the table at the left of Venus:

Detail of the painting

Detail of the painting

Between Venus and Cupid we find two telescopes, a compass and some coins:

Detail of the painting

Detail of the painting

Finally, in a central position there is a globe and a compass on the floor:

Detail of the painting

Detail of the painting

The other pictures of the serie are also interesting but not in our mathematical sense. Walking from Velazquez to Goya, the visitor must admire this masterpiece.

Location: Museo del Prado (map)

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