Butcher's Shop Annibale Carracci Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Butcher's Shop captured two different scenes from every day Italian life in the 16th century courtesy of Baroque artist Annibale Carracci.

He decided to name the two paintings the same because they essentially cover the same theme, a portrait of working men in a local butchers. Both fit closely with another of his most famous paintings, The Bean Eater, which continues the theme of addressing the lives of the local residents in his area. At this point the artist was unusual in turning away from the members of high society within his work, as most others had followed that path. Indeed, any who had become court painters would be forced to produce portraits of high ranking individuals and have little time to experiment with other artistic genres.

Art historians have benefitted from paintings such as these for learning more about the less-documented lives of the poor and impoverished members of society. They were essentially ignored by those of a higher status, considered relatively unimportant and without merit or promise. Whilst one can argue that this class divide still continues to a certain degree today, it has certainly moved on within the western world and barriers have been somewhat softened through a variety of governmental measures.

Annibale Carracci's paintings were, therefore, important in documenting social inequalities of that period and allowing us to compare them with the situation we have today. The artist was by no means obsessed with the poorer elements of society - he covered many different genres during his career - but it is interesting to see at least one person taking inspiration from their lives.

The true master of this type of content was surely Pieter Bruegel the Elder, whose career was devoted to the lives of the ordinary. His famous paintings included Hunters in the Snow and Peasant Wedding, covering the lives of local flemish peasants across a variety of seasons and events. Carracci however only used indoor scenes in his own work on this theme.