The Turkey

Le Dindon

In 1925 in his studio in the rue Saint Gothard, near Montparnasse, Soutine embarked on a series of paintings of dead animals. Alongside the famous series of "Bœufs écorchés" [Beef Carcasses], he painted a series of plucked or half-plucked poultry. They were not simply posed, but suspended by the neck or feet, rigid, their beaks wide open in the final gasps of their death throes. The paintings are very striking, harrowing even.
The beef carcasses refer to the famous paintings by the great Dutch artist Rembrandt (1606-1669). As for the hanging poultry, it evokes the ritual of Kapparot, held on the eve of the Jewish festival of Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement. Soutine attended this as a child in Belarus.
Here, the unbalanced composition and the dark background highlighting the dead turkey heighten the dramatic intensity of the scene. The outstretched body is on the opposite diagonal to the bracket of the fanlight from which it hangs. There are slashes of bright red and yellow across the body. Its curled up legs and bedraggled feathers on its neck protest the violence of its death, as does its open beak. With a few details, Soutine has created a powerful work of art with an oppressive atmosphere.

Provenance: Paul Guillaume; Domenica Walter