UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Looking at Annibale Carracci’s "The Butcher Shop" Campbell, Paloma Stasia


An enormous painting produced by Annibale Carracci around 1583 teems with the visceral. The assemblage of bodies represented within the enclosed space of "The Butcher Shop" proliferates in both human and animal form. I will be looking at how a multitude of spatial, bodily, and temporal transitions and displacements are produced by the intermingling of living and dead bodies that surround the wooden table displaying pieces of meat. In spite of the proliferation of flayed and hanging carcasses within the painting and the representation of labour in an apparently uninterrupted sequence of time, there is an emphatic absence of blood. This disjunction may have something to do with the fact that the painting was produced at a time when the marketplace was becoming more regulated by sanitary laws. But I will argue that while the dripping and staining of blood is not present in the painting, it is suggested in more insidious ways. Red paint figures predominantly throughout in the form of clothing and the act of vision takes on the role of blood as it infiltrates, animates, and contaminates the bodies within the representation. "The Butcher Shop" has been considered an anomaly in the work of Carracci. The size of the painting and what it represents have made it difficult to classify. All attempts to categorize it as genre confront the problem of its scale, which suggests a subject other than labour. As my thesis will show, this is not the only disjunction the painting presents. There are, in fact, a number of displacements within the painting that undermine attempts to come up with a single or stable reading of the image and what it represents. This project will consider the ways in which bodies are transformed through labour and vision. What happens when the act of butchery has been replaced by the act of painting? My contention is that paint can be seen as flesh and that its very application unsettles the clear demarcation of bodies and attempts to return them to readability. It is the paint itself that makes the bodies and activities represented indiscernible.

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