Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Butcher...♦

Butcher Shop
David Teniers II, the Younger, Flemish, 1610–1690
68.4 x 98 cm (26 15/16 x 38 9/16 in.)
Oil on panel
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
(NOTE: All info taken from MFA Website)

The source of this painting is obviously taken from the "behind-the-scenes" of everyday life. It shows what happens in the background while the wealthy and affluent are enjoying the feast that comes from all the work. Immediately the figure is determined to be the cattle carcass and the woman in white to the right, the background is the butcher shop itself and the other butchers in the doorway. There are two major visual fields, I will call these the left and the right side. On the left we have the carcass itself, bright flesh and the still images of dead meat dominate this section with it's focal point being the bright clean towel hanging in the body cavity. On the right we have the "living" aspect of the work. The people, butchers, working and conversing which contrasts with the "dead" left side. The focal point of the right is the woman in the foreground working on a piece of meat.

The overall color of the painting is dark, although it does have some spotting of bright white and pink that pop out. Circular shapes recur in the bowls, plates, and body shapes in the people. A large rectangle dominates the center (the carcass) and it also contains a smaller one turned on its side (the towel). Much of the background is cast in shadow, except a window set high in the shop.

The narrative is clearly a day-in-the-life type story. A typical day as a butcher in a rather large city (indicated by the tall buildings seen in the high window). The only symbolism I can see is how life and death are so closely intertwined, as made clear by the left and right visual fields. Some distortion can be seen in the background. The man standing at us looks rather short. This may be because he is a short man, or to make him less significant in the painting, since he is the only human figure to be seen from the front.

All of the figures are contained within the frame, only the background and room itself go off the frame. Because this is not an imitation of a photograph all the figures are purposefully put in frame. The viewer is placed on the same level as the image, probably to make us feel as if we had walked in and are looking at this scene in real life. The image is a miniature of real life, only about 2' x 3'. I don't think this has any meaning, just a manageable size to paint and display.

This in an oil painting on a wooden panel background. The artist uses the oil-based paint to create a detailed painting but not in a photo-realistic way. This work caught my eye because it stood out against all the other paintings around it. The bright colored flesh and gruesome nature of the narrative drew my eye to it.

On the "picture plane" I would place this painting close to realism, but slightly toward abstraction due to the graininess of the painting and the minor use of large brushstrokes.

No comments: