Call for Articles | Picturing Sensory Experiences

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on April 30, 2021

Giuseppe Maria Mitelli after Augostino Mitelli, Vedere (Sight), ca. 1700, etching, 21 × 29 cm
(Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, RP-P-2013-27-1)

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From the Call for Articles:

Picturing Sensory Experiences / Figurations du sentir / Figurazioni del sentire
Special Issue of Images Re-vues, edited by Marta Battisti, Viktoria von Hoffmann, and Érika Wicky

Proposals due by 30 June 2021, with finished articles due by 1 February 2022

This special issue of the journal Images Re-vues explores various approaches to picturing sensory experiences. The aim is to interrogate both the visual representations of sensory perceptions and the sensory experiences shaped by the creation and reception of such images. The proposed contributions will build on the vibrant interdisciplinary research carried out in sensory studies in recent decades.

The history of the senses and the history of visual cultures both emerged in the 1980s, with the latter examining both the history of sight and works meant to be apprehended visually. Crossing these approaches, several works—building on the seminal research from the medievalist Carl Nordenfalk (1976)—have been devoted to the iconography of the five senses, thus including images among the materials of histories of sensory cultures. These pioneering studies, which include the catalogue of the exhibition Immagini del sentire: i cinque sensi nell’arte (Ferino-Pagden, 1996), have identified the allegories and symbols associated with the senses in visual cultures. For example, representations of the—most often Aristotelian—sensorium can be seen in Floris and Cort (The Five Senses, 1561), Brueghel the Elder and Rubens (Allegories of the Five Senses, 1617), and vast Renaissance collections of emblems. In these and other images, it is frequent to find sight pictured by a mirror, hearing represented in the form of a deer or a musical instrument, whereas flowers were a known symbol of smell, in the same way that monkeys and food symbolised taste. Touch could be alluded to by the depiction of contact with fabric, for example, and its finesse was characteristically suggested by the figure of the spider. Previous studies that have explored these issues have also highlighted the functions attributed to each sense and provided descriptions relating to the functioning of sensory organs.

Drawing on these works as well as more recent developments in the field inspired by the fruitful dialogue between sensory history and the history of emotions (Bodicce and Smith, 2020), this special issue proposes to study practices of picturing the senses as a window into the sensory experiences of the past. Rather than exploring the symbols representing the senses, we wish to consider how visual depictions of sensory perception intersect with the sensory experiences that come into play during the creation and reception of artistic and scientific imagery. Analysing how sensory perception, an invisible practice experienced in the present, could manifest in visual depictions will lead us to pay attention to bodily gestures and technological devices (such as the acoustic horn or the eyeglass) connected with sensory experience and its depiction. This perspective could also be enriched by considerations of sensory deprivation stemming from disability studies.

We will also consider the interplay between practices of creation—the senses of the maker—and the sensory experience depicted in the image, attempting to capture the resonances from one to the other. Likewise, the reception (and reactions of disgust, laughter, pleasure) by the viewer of the image will also be examined to evaluate the mobilisation, at the imaginative level, of the viewer’s senses. Considering the visual representations of the senses as sensory experiences of the world will lead us to discuss the implicit intersensory nature of visual representations of the senses, as we will consider both the production and consumption of images. In a word: our collective inquiry will question the esthesic dimension (< aesthesis, sensation) of picturing sensory experiences (Boutaud, 2012).

A global approach to the visual depictions of sensory perception will provide a fresh understanding of practices and knowledge related to sensory experience and the sensory models that have governed human relationships with the surrounding world. The consideration of different visual artistic media (e.g., paintings, engravings, drawings, sculptures) and of a wide variety of cultural fields (e.g., arts, natural sciences, medicine, gastronomy, music, religion) will help us interrogate the functions of these representations and their contribution to an aestheticisation, objectivation, or reflection about the nature of sensory experience. The absence of chronological and geographical boundaries will allow us to explore the diversity of answers to these questions and perhaps to develop a comparative approach interrogating multiple ways of picturing the senses.

Avenues of research that can be explored include but are not limited to:

• The artistic, religious, economic, philosophical, and political contexts informing the representations of sensory perceptions, as well as issues connected with the social, gendered, and racialised characterisation of the subjects of these representations.

• The intersection between hierarchies of the senses and the arts. Sample questions include whether the lower senses were natural subjects for artistic genres considered inferior, such as caricature? Alternately, did such representations require an allegorical detour?

• Which visual strategies could be employed to depict the intensity or deprivation of sensory perceptions?

• The visual representations of sensory imaginaries beyond the five senses of the sensorium defined by Aristotle. Pre-Hispanic (Cruz Riviera, 2019) and medieval Islamic art (Le Maguer, 2013) invite other examples and analyses of sensory experiences.

• The commonplace sensory imagination in a given culture and period, such as, for example, representations of anatomical dissections and banquets in the Renaissance, or the end-of-century representations of young girls dreamily smelling a flower.

• Visual depictions of sensory experiences offered by different conventional systems escaping the usual representational codes shaping the visual arts, like sensory maps and visualisations of brain activity.

Proposals for articles (750 words maximum) in French, English, or Italian describing the research questions and the corpus of sources should be sent to Marta Battisti, Viktoria von Hoffmann and Érika Wicky by June 30th, 2021. Articles (30,000–60,000 characters) will be expected by February 1st, 2022. Per journal policies, each article will be subject to a double-blind peer review by the editorial committee and the scientific committee of Images Re-vues.


• P. Beusen, S. Ebert-Schifferer, and E. Mai, eds., L’Art Gourmand (Brussels: Crédit Communal, 1996).

• Rob Boddice and Mark Smith, Emotion, Sense, Experience (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020).

• R. Bösel, M. G. Di Monte, Michele Di Monte, S. Ebert-Schifferer, eds., L’arte e i linguaggi della percezione: L’eredità di Sir Ernst H. Gombrich (Milan: Electa, 2004).

• Jean-Jacques Boutaud, « L’esthésique et l’esthétique: La figuration de la saveur comme artification du culinaire », Sociétés & Représentations 34 (2012): 85–97.

• Mark Bradley, « The Artistry of Bodies, Stages, and Cities in the Greco-Roman World », A Cultural History of the Senses in Antiquity (London: Bloomsbury, 2018).

• Christina Bradstreet, Scented Visions: Smell in Nineteenth-Century Art (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2021).

• Constance Classen, The Color of Angels: Cosmology, Gender, and the Aesthetic Imagination (London: Routledge, 1998).

• Sarah Cohen, « Experiencing the Arts in the Age of Sensibility », A Cultural History of the Senses in the Age of Enlightenment (London: Bloomsbury, 2018).

• Riviera Cruz and Amelia Sandra, « La representación y función dinámica del sonido en los mitos mesoamericanos », La dimensión sensorial de la cultura: Diez contribuciones al estudio de los sentidos en México (Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, 2019), 14572.

• Julia Csergo and Frédérique Desbuissons, eds., Le cuisinier et l’art: Art du cuisinier et cuisine d’artiste, XVIeXXIe siècle (Paris: Les Éditions de l’institut national d’histoire de l’art / Menu Fretin, 2018).

• Henri De Riedmatten, Nicolas Galley, Jean-François Corpataux, and Valentin Nussbaum, eds., Senses of Sight: Towards a Multisensorial Approach of the Image: Essays in Honour of Victor Stoichita (Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider, 2015).

• Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, ed., Immagini del sentire: i cinque sensi nell’arte (Milan: Leonardo Arte, 1996)

• Caroline Fowler, Drawing and the Senses: An Early Modern History (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016).

• Florence Gétreau, Voir la musique (Paris: Citadelles & Mazenod, 2017).

• Adeline Grand-Clément, Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel, and Fritz Blakolmer, eds., Les traces du sensible: pour une histoire des sens dans les sociétés anciennes, Trivium, 27 (2017).

• Martial Guédron, Temenuzhka Dimova, and Mylène Mistre-Schaal, eds., L’emprise des sens: de la fin du Moyen Âge à nos jours (Paris: Hazan, 2016).

• Sterenn Le Maguer, « De l’autel à encens au brûle-parfum: héritage des formes, évolution des usages », Archéo.doct 5 (2013): 183200.

• Wolfgang Neiser, Audition in der Kunst der italienischen Renaissance (Regensburg: Schnell & Steiner, 2015).

• Mylène Mistre-Schaal, « Sniffing: The Figuration of Olfactory Attraction in Eighteenth-Century European Art», De Achttiende Eeuw 48 (2016): 127–43.

• Carl Nordenfalk, « Les cinq sens dans l’art du Moyen-Âge », Revue de l’art 34 (1976): 17–28.

• Eric Palazzo, L’invention chrétienne des cinq sens dans la liturgie et l’art au Moyen Âge (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 2014).

François Quiviger, The Sensory World of Italian Renaissance Art (London: Reaktion Books, 2010).

• Denys Riout, « Art et olfaction: des évocations visuelles à une présence réelle », Cahiers du MNAM 116 (été 2011): 84–109.

• Alice Sanger and Sive Tove Kulbrandstad Walker, eds., Sense and the Senses in Early Modern Art and Cultural Practice (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012).

• David Summers, The Judgement of Sense: Renaissance Naturalism and the Rise of Aesthetics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

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