Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pig butchering

I found this item in the weird news intriguing, perhaps because it is anatomical. During the restoration last summer of the painting "Barn Interior" by Dutch artist Egbert van der Poel (1621-1664), conservator Barry Bauman discovered that the original image of a butchered and stretched pig had been painted over (see detail, top), likely by another artist at the request of one of the painting's wealthier owners. On his website, Bauman notes that flayed pigs or oxen would have been a common sight in the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th c., and gathers images of similar genre paintings. But on another level, the image of a slaughtered ox suspended on a wooden support - like those painted by van der Poel's contemporary, Rembrandt (above, 2nd image) - would have been understood as symbols of the crucifixion of Christ and of the transient nature of life itself. Today, the slaughtering and butchering of meat is carried out in an industrial setting, but you can still learn how to cut up the carcass on your own (above, 3rd image, click for details). Incidentally, Roald Dahl wrote a great short story (spoiler here) about a slaughterhouse, and autistic Temple Grandin, who has great insight into animals' minds, has revolutionized the design of slaughterhouses with her book Humane Livestock Handling.

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