Artibus et Historiae no. 79 (XL)

2019, ISSN 0391-9064

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ALISON M. KETTERING - After Life: Rembrandt’s Slaughtered Ox (pp. 267–286)

Rembrandt’s Slaughtered Ox (1655) has long been seen as an allegory in the tradition of memento mori, suggesting correspondences between a dead animal and a dead human being. This paper does not dispute such cautionary readings. It expands and complicates those readings. Here, as in Rembrandt’s late history paintings, his concentrated pictorial rhetoric encouraged multiple responses. These extended to agricultural and socio-economic factors; the domestic provision of meat; links between oxen and social status; scientific and philosophical enquiry; and Rembrandt’s own creative capacity in rendering a creature naer het leven. They point to an artist rethinking animal-human relationships in a deeply interconnected world.

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