The Sense of Touch

Jusepe de Ribera (Spanish, 1591-1652)
c. 1615-16
Oil on canvas 
45-5/8 x 34-3/4 in. (115.9 x 88.3 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
Not on View

Jusepe de Ribera was one of the giants of seventeenth-century naturalism. The Sense of Touch forms part of an early and famous series of the five senses he created while living in Rome. Ribera, however, intended more than an illustration of one “sense.” He has invited a comparison between the tactile and descriptive qualities of painting and sculpture—that is, between the brush and the chisel.

The artist demonstrates that with touch, sculpture is recognizable to the blind man. Ribera skillfully presents the illusion of a three-dimensional marble object within the confines of the flat surface of the canvas. He then takes one additional, amusing step by including a foreshortened painting that only the sighted can see. Ribera thus asserts the preeminence of painting over sculpture, signifying his stance in the long-standing competition between the art forms (principally architecture, painting and sculpture), known as paragone.


?Feliks Feliksovich Iusupov, Kniaz’ (1887-1967), Moscow and St. Petersburg (until 1919), and Paris.
(sale, New York, Parke-Bernet, 9 April 1953, lot 194, as Spanish School, XVII Century, The Sculptor–Sense of Touch, to);
[Duveen Bros., New York, stock no. 30164, as Antonio de Puga, later changed to Pietro Novelli; sold, as Pietro Novelli, 1965 to];
The Norton Simon Foundation.

Image reproduction permission may be granted for scholarly or arts related commercial use. All image requests, regardless of their intended purpose, should be submitted via email. Requests can also be made by fax or mail.

Images may be protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. Additional permission may be required.

Approved requests for the reproduction of an image will receive a contract detailing all fees and conditions of use of the image. Upon receipt of both the signed contract and full payment, the Office of Rights and Reproductions will provide the image. A complimentary copy of the published material must be provided to the Norton Simon Museum.

Please fill out our Online Reproduction Request Form.

E-mail: [email protected]
Telephone: (626) 449-6840 x 3300
Fax: (626) 796-4978