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Philippe Mercier, 1689 or 1691–1760

The Sense of Touch

1744 to 1747
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
52 x 60 1/2 inches (132.1 x 153.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
bleeding | blood | cat (domestic cat) | child | conversation piece | costume | feathers | feeling | fireplace | fur | genre subject | girl | heat | interior | landscape | lovers | mantels | men | oval | pain | paintings | senses | touch | vases | women
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

The composition is divided in half and (as in The Sense of Taste) turns on two pairs of lovers. On the left, having allowed the little girl to stroke her, the cat (center) has apparently without warning lashed out and scratched the young man, drawing blood. He soothes his finger, while the young lady at his side gestures in surprise. The amorous couple on the right experience no such painful interruption, though the young lady is aware that the viewer is watching them kiss, and aware that we are aware that she is aware. Two Chinese vases stand at either end of the mantelpiece, while the horizontally oriented oval painting in between, and the vertical one on the left, are classicizing landscapes.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2005

1747, Richardson's Sale, Foundling Hospital dinner, Mercier, The Star, vertue III, 1933-34, p. 135, N12 W35 A1 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Christie's Sale Catalogue : Important English Pictures : 21 June 1974, Christie's, June 21, 1974, p. 49, No. 127, pl. 127, Sales Catalogues (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 158-159, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

John Ingamells, A Catalogue of the Paintings, Drawings, and Etchings of Philip Mercier, Volume of the Walpole Society, vol. 46, Walpole Society, 1976-8, pp. 5, 62, no. 268, pl. 6a, N12 W35 +A1 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Paul Mellon's Legacy : a passion for British art [large print labels], , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 1, N5220 M552 P381 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Robert Raines, Philip Mercier, 1689-1760, an exhibition of paintings and engravings. , Paul Mellon Foundation for British Art, London, 1969, p. 47, no. 51, NJ18 M5427 R35 (YCBA) [YCBA]

David H. Solkin, Gainsborough's Family Album, National Portrait Gallery, London, p. 50, fig. 22, NJ18.G16 S65 2018 (LC) Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Sotheby's sale catalogue : British Paintings 1500-1850 : 13 July 1988, Sotheby's, London, July 13, 1988, pp. 129, 132-33, lot. 87, Auction Catalogues (YCBA)

Jennifer Ullman, Philippe Mercier and The five senses, Yale Center for British Art. , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1990, V 0099 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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