Figure B-1. Gerard de Lairesse, Allegory of the Five Senses, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1668_Gérard_de_Lairesse_-_Allegory_of_the_Five_Senses.jp
Figure B-1 is a painting entitled ‘Allegory of the Five Senses’ (1668) by de Lairesse, motivated by a consideration of the five senses. The painting shows three children and two women alluding to the senses. Sight is represented by the young child pointing at a convex mirror, touch by the woman holding a bird, hearing by the young boy with a triangle in one hand and a striker in the other, smell is represented by the girl with flowers, and taste by the women with the fruit. Fruit and flowers are conspicuously placed in the room. A flute is placed against the signature of the artist. Surprisingly, the young girl is not smelling the flower and the woman is not shown tasting the fruit. We in turn are using our sixth sense, our mind, to react to the painting, as did de Lairesse when he painted it.
Of the six senses, sight, touch and the mind are major influences in the visual arts. It has been suggested that the spirit is a seventh sense. The fortunate aspect of describing the senses and their influence on the visual arts, is that everyone has experience with them and therefore can immediately relate to them.
Early male philosophers, thinkers, artists and musicians ( the female counterparts were seldom recorded ) had a need to express and explain these primal instincts, obsessions, emotions and attractions. In their time, the use of gods and goddesses as metaphors seemed a natural and convenient way of representing and explaining them. We find similar stories in all cultures. Today and the immediate past, different explanations of these primal instincts and emotions are forwarded, some still invoking gods and goddesses. These stories and explanations have influenced the visual arts over many centuries.
Many attempts have been made to study the sixth sense, with attempts to determine where in the brain the senses and emotions are located. Figure B-2 are diagrams for two studies, one in 1898 and another in 1902.
Figure B-2. Diagrams of the Brain from 1898 and 1902.
The first diagram on the left is from “The Book of Life: The Spiritual and Physical Constitution of Man”, by Dr. Alesha Sivartha from 1898. I was happy to see that he used a woman in his diagram. In the book he expounded on the regions of the mind, using a blend of science, sociology, mysticism and religion, a spiritual teaching. His approach apparently attracted the attention of Mark Twain among others. He breaks down the grey matter into twelve different sections. The ideas these images express are difficult to sum up succinctly but broadly touch on the main tenants of theosophy, a range of positions within Christianity which focus on the attainment of direct, unmediated knowledge of the nature of divinity and the origin and purpose of the universe. (https://publicdomainreview.org/collections/diagrams-from-dr-alesha-sivarthas-book-of-life-1898/ )
The second and third diagrams are from L. A. Vaught’s book “Practical Character Reader, a book on phrenology” published in 1902. To arrive at his diagrams he used at least fifty thousand careful examinations to prove the nature and location of these mental elements. More than a million observations were also made to confirm the examinations. Phrenology involves the measurement of bumps on the skull to predict mental traits. I like the bow tie in his second diagram. ( https://publicdomainreview.org/collections/phrenology-diagrams-from-vaughts-practical-character-reader-1902/ )
Modern experimental data refute the conclusions based on these studies by using more sophisticated instruments and devices to investigate the mind. What will be refuted in 20 more years? What will be the suggested models to explain the mind? Art will change a little. The primal mind will not change over such a short duration. The explanation as to why we do art will change.