These concepts were recognized and refined over the centuries by numerous scholars, including the 17th-century German Jesuit priest Athanasius Kircher, who, among other topics, wrote extensively on music theory.
From “Athanasius Kircher,” ThereminVox: Art, Technology and Gesture, February 4, 2004, http://www.thereminvox.com/article/articleview/77/1/16/.
See Penelope Gouk’s helpful chapter “Making Music, Making Knowledge: The Harmonious Universe of Athanasius Kircher,” in The Great Art of Knowing: The Baroque Encyclopedia of Athanasius Kircher, ed. Daniel Stolzenberg (Stanford, 2001), 71–83, in particular 74.
Kircher’s articulation of the multisensory relationship between color and music resonates with Van Mander’s advice for artists and suggests that the experience of looking at painting may engage viewers on a variety of sensory levels. For synesthetes, the integration of certain colors and shapes on an artist’s panel or canvas may stimulate a musical experience, which would allow them to “hear” the painting.
For most viewers, a painting’s composition reinforces the subject matter. In Vermeer’s Woman with a Lute, for example, which is largely a cool, dark painting, accents of warm light on the upper left of the wall (promoted by whites and creams) direct our attention to the woman’s face