Forgotten allegory of pork carcasses
ARTinvestment.RU   06 сентября 2009

Restorer of Chicago discovered a painting by the Dutch artist Egbert van der Pula image skinned pork carcasses, which was later drawn in

Two years ago, Calvin College of Michigan collection replenished the work of Dutch painter Egbert van der Pula (Egbert van der Poel, 1621-1664), donated by one of the graduates. In this painting, oil on oak, painted by a remarkable little genre scenes: a woman inside the barn prevented something in a bowl, next play, two children, and in the background on the right are seen two male figures.

It is unlikely that anyone could have anticipated that this work will lead to interesting discoveries. Last summer, director of exhibitions at Calvin College Joel Zwart (Joel Zwart) instructed the conservative Chicago Baumann Barry (Barry Bauman) clear picture. He noticed that the stairs on the left side is written very densely, and the paint in this place even started peeling off. Remove it, the conservative discovered that originally wanted to portray the artist - a pig's carcass stretched and hung on the stairs.

«It has been painted over, and that's the question: why was this done? Most likely, it did not the artist himself - explained Joel Zwart. - Probably now bought a wealthy client ». Can assume that he did not like the kind of split pig carcasses and he hired another artist to paint it it. According to Zwart, after the restoration of the picture began to look very different, and certainly better than before.

In addition, as a result of the restoration it became clear that the picture has a couple. The second work of Egbert van der pool on a similar topic is stored now in Amsterdam Rijksmuseum.

Here is a piece of research by Barry Bauman about the restoration of paintings, which are discussed in detail the genre, historical and symbolic aspects of the image skinned carcasses in the art.

skinned pork carcass

Pork carcass is an important part of the composition's Egbert van der Pula - it falls most light from the half-open door. This indicates that the author wanted to focus the viewer's attention precisely on this subject.

Genre aspects

First of all, meat carcass can be viewed as what it actually is. For in those days, carved carcasses of pigs and bulls can be seen in the Netherlands quite often. After slaughtering the animal was hung vertically on a wooden basis to ensure that meat is cooled down and make it easier to cut and cook. Down put capacity, which dripped blood, which is then used for making sausage.

Below you can see two pictures of the middle of XVII century on the subject. Bottom left - a picture of Isaac van Ostade (Isaac van Ostade, 1621-1649) «Farmers around the house, the pigs are slaughtered» (1641). Artist sharpens the viewer's attention on bottom, depicting a dark hatchet against the lighter side of the house. But this scene is presented as a normal event in the life of the family. Children calmly watching what happens. One of them (second from right) holds the hands of his younger brother (or sister), and the other children (from left) did not pay attention to what is happening. Next to the people - a dog, apparently picked up the crumbs.

Bottom right before etching in 1645, executed his brother Isaac, Adriaan van Ostade (Adriaen van Ostade, 1610-1685). Here, as in the first case, the slaughter of pigs is depicted as a phenomenon of everyday, familiar to every family, including children. This undoubtedly influenced the composition of the product - it seems that the light is reminiscent of the campfire glow comes from the animal itself.

As picture Egbert van der Pula, then placing the pig in half-open door could be related to the trade: part of the carcasses were sold to buyers through it.

Historical Aspects

Image skinned pork carcasses found not only in the works of the XVII century. It also appears in the works of Dutch painters of the XVI century. Confirmation of this is the composition Bekkelara Joachim (Joachim Beuckelaer, 1530-1574) «stabbed pig» (1563). It marked the influence of his teacher Pieter Aartsen (Pieter Aertsen, 1508-1575), writer's market scene with meat carcasses. But, unlike his mentor, Bekkelar made image skinned carcasses to the fore, and people moved to the side in shadow. A split carcass becomes an independent subject in painting.

The same can be said about similar work by Martin van Cleve (Martin van Cleve, 1520-1570) in 1566. The carcass of an animal brought forward, in the center, but people are in the background. From left to prepare something woman, with her man, drinking from the bottle, and right at the open door are two children. Just as with Bekkelara, at the Van Cleve beef carcass dominates the picture plane, and everything else just surrounds her.

already mentioned above, Isaac van Ostade, contemporary Egbert van der Pula, has created many paintings with skinned pork carcasses. Two of them are presented below, of course, were written under the influence of the earlier works of the XVI century. In both cases, the center of the composition itself becomes carcass, surrounding its interior is dark and austere. A light from the indefinite source in the carcass of an animal, attracting the viewer's attention is to her, and only to her.

symbolic interpretation

So why Dutch artists devoted entire fabric skinned carcasses of animals? What do they mean by that? What meaning they have invested in these songs? All this is discussed further by the example of the outstanding works of Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn (Rembrandt van Rijn, 1606-1669)

Rembrandt was a huge influence on Dutch art of the XVII century. This includes portraiture, landscape, religious and allegorical paintings. Portraits of the great masters have always penetrate into the interior, they convey not only the physical shell model, but also her soul. It is this relationship of physical and spiritual is reflected in two of his paintings with carved bull carcasses, which are listed below.

And in the first and second work of the viewer affects the size of the skinned and cut up carcasses, dominant in the center foreground of the two tracks. Just as in the two pictures of Isaac van Ostade, the carcass is shown on a dark background, and light falls on it from the indefinite source. A thin layer of paint in the dark areas emphasizes the density and richness of color in the center of the canvas. People present at the two paintings, but they are in the shade.

Rembrandt very carefully wrote out the meat drying out, opening the chest and rounded lumps of fat and coagulated blood. In physical terms, it is just an image dead animals intended as food for humans. But Rembrandt was able to turn that image into a visual metaphor of spiritual beauty. This beef carcass as a symbol of transience of earthly life. But at the same time, it also reminds the viewer of spirituality and holiness. The legs of a bull, hanging to a wooden beam, similar to spread out his hands nailed to the cross. A slaughter a calf in the XIII century in art was a symbol of the crucifixion.

In the painting in 1655 reinforces the presence of these sensations women. She looks out from behind the door in the background, and it seems that she feels the excitement and humility at the sight of this scene. It was as if faced with the rite, in which truth and meaning of life open, exposed to show everyone. The figure of the animal in this case becomes both a sign of death and a symbol of the continuous cycle of life.

Images Egbert van der Poole

Understanding the genre, the historical and symbolic significance skinned meat carcasses in the arts helps to better understand what is depicted in other parts of the picture.


Egbert van der Pool depicted two children. At first glance it seems that the boy was standing something drink from a flask or bottle. However, a discovery which was made in the course of restoration, can correctly interpret the pose of the child. It is enough to consider other work on a similar topic.

For example, already mentioned above, the picture of Martin van Cleve in the right part of the composition can see the two children in the doorway. Standing baby does not break away from the sight of his younger brother, inflating the balloon. But, given the context of the work, it becomes clear that the child inflates the bladder split of the animal. Such things at the time often served as a toy for children.

This theme is also repeated in the works of Isaac van Ostade, in the works of 1642 and 1645, which are listed below. In both cases, the painting shows children playing with inflated pig bladder. Seated boy in 1642 is very similar to a child seated in the painting of Van der Pula. This suggests that the artist may have been familiar with this earlier work. Now it becomes clear that the boy was standing in the picture Poole does not drink something, and inflates the bladder of an animal slaughtered.

  • ISAAK van Ostade stabbed svinya. 1642. Fragment

  • ISAAK van Ostade stabbed svinya. 1645. Fragment

From the perspective of the genre all the aforementioned artists just showed one of the scenes of everyday life of the Dutch, in which children are probably naively happy new toy.

But what is the deeper meaning of the presence of children? Why they are written on the picture? And what connotation in this case becomes a bubble?

The symbolic significance of the bubble lies in the proverb homo bulla ( «man - bubble»), which is frequently used in the XVI century. Erasmus of Rotterdam (Erasmus Roterodamus) in his collection «Proverbs» (Adagia, 1500) explains the meaning of this saying so: «There is nothing more fragile, fleeting and empty than human life. Bubble - a rounded hollow formed in the water. It rises and disappears immediately ».

bubble, like a balloon, is a reminder that our world can disappear in an instant. This image is very well transferred to the etching Karel van Shechem (Karel van Sichem) «Homo Bulla» (1617). It depicts inflated bubbles child sitting on a skull. At one of the bubbles is even an inscription «Homo». The value of this etching is very closely connected with the image of a bubble in the picture of van der Pula.

a similar issue raised in the painting by Frans van Mirisa (Frans van Mieris) «The boy, bubbles» (1663). Bubbles themselves symbolize the transience of life. But the author repeats this motif in the song several times. The picture is dated in Roman numerals, which reminds the viewer of the ancient civilization that has long been considered invincible, but not withstand the onslaught of the barbarians. Frame window, we saw a boy, old and cracked. Standing on the windowsill sunflower symbolizes the movement of time. Interesting and another fact: the leaves of sunflower were originally painted green with a mixture of yellow and blue pigments. But gradually the flimsy yellow pigment was destroyed, and the leaves become dark blue color. That is how the painting itself was an example of the fragility of earthly existence.

allusion to transience of life is also found in Rembrandt's etchings «Sleep burs» (1643). Animal, unsuspecting of its future fate, sleeping peacefully. But in the background, the boy was happily squeezed in the hands of his toys - the bubble inflated. A similar motif can be found in the above-mentioned picture of Martin van Cleve. The boy on the right holds around the world, which inflates his brother, a toy arrows - an omen of his future fate.


Reminder of the brevity of life there in the images, and other figures in the painting Egbert van der Pula.

woman is close to the skinned pig carcass. She holds the spoon and it seems that something is preparing to bowl. In this way, the author emphasizes that the animal is vital to the sustenance of the family, and the proximity of the women spoke about the importance of its role in this matter.

Her image contrasts with the image to the right two men, who have been smoking long clay pipes. This piece is included in the composition is not random, because the tube and the smoke associated with the Dutch proverb des menschen leven gaat al een rook verbij, ie, «human life goes up in smoke». Smoking Urn in etching Homo Bulla has a similar meaning.

long clay pipes can be seen in the paintings of other artists. For example, in the work of David Bailey (David Bailly, 1584-1657) «Self-portrait with symbols of worldly things» (1651). In addition to the tube, a reminder of the transience of life are the skull, an overturned jug, extinguished the candle, pick a flower and an hourglass.


All the hints given above are hidden within the genre compositions created Egbert van der pool. But if they find an explanation, they acquire a deeper meaning and become extremely important for the whole work. The fact that the later image of pig carcasses were drawn in, most likely due to a lack of understanding of those values, which the author put into this work. Therefore, for the restorer was so important to return the painting of its original appearance.

article prepared by Catherine Onuchina, AI

Sources: , baumanconservation. com ,

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