The concept of the five senses is rooted in Greek philosophy, which held that the senses are points of contact between people and the universe. The five senses as a theme in art, however, did not appear until the medieval period, when sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste were often associated with vice. The 16th century saw the first artistic treatment of the senses as independent subjects.

This exhibition of European paintings and prints from the 16th through 18th century explores the ability of artworks to evoke all five senses through a wide range of visual associations. Comprising works selected primarily from the collections of the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation and the MFAH, Picturing the Senses in European Art offers an opportunity to see some works that are not often on display and to view more familiar ones in a fresh context.