Il gusto (c.1614-1616)

Ribera, Jusepe de (1591-1652)

Il gusto (The Sense of Taste)
Oil on canvas, 113.8 x 88.3 cm
Wadsworth AtheneumHartford

This jolly, somewhat ragged figure is an embodiment of the sense of taste, and perhaps also an allusion to the sin of gluttony. His frugal meal clearly delights him—a generous portion of either pasta or lamprey, a cone of olives, a crusty roll, and a carafe of wine that he has already begun to enjoy. This picture originally belonged to a series representing the five senses—taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing—a popular theme in art since the Middle Ages. Usually they were shown as allegorical female figures, but Jusepe de Ribera applied a more earthy approach in this and other works and depicted them all as men. Trained in Valencia, Spain, before settling in Italy, Ribera is recorded as being in Rome as early as 1612, where he painted “The Sense of Taste”, one of his earliest verifiable works. (WA)