Young Girl Plucking a Duck refers to an oil on canvas painting that was created by Fabritius Barent, a male Dutch artist, between 1643 and 1645. The artwork measures 84.1 by 70 centimeters or about 33 by 27 inches. The artwork is currently exhibited as an anonymous souvenir at the Dallas Museum of Art within Dallas, Texas, USA (El Paso Museum of Art). The painting depicts a young girl who holds a lifeless duck by the left hand while using the right hand to remove feathers off the duck. The girl’s eyes are keenly trained on the bird. I am interested in the artwork owing to the questions that the girl’s action and disposition conjures within my mind, namely; is she angry, happy? Why is she skinning the duck? Is there a deeper meaning of the girl’s activity?
In the painting, Barent places the young girl at the center against a largely dark background. While facing the foreground, the girl is seated before a wooden table on which her right hand rests by the elbow. Only the upper torso portion of the girl’ body is visible, with the lower section being concealed by the table. The girl’s head is slightly bent so as to offer a closer view of the bird that is in front of her. The girl’s open eyes are trained on the duck. Her unbraided hair, which is neatly held to the back of her head by a crimson band, is of dark tan color. She has red lipstick on her neatly closed lips. The girl wears a brown collarless dress with red sleeves. The head of the pale brown duck droops and touches the table with the other sections being raised. As she continues to pluck feathers, the girl holds some fluff in her right palm. Beside the girl to the right is a shut door. A blank wall is behind the girl (El Paso Museum of Art).
Barent was a Baroque painter who held an artistic career which is distinguished by his utilization of cool shades to describe forms within space (Porkopolis.org). The Baroque art era emerged at the dawn of the 1600s and ran up to the mid 1700s during a time of cultural, social and religious turmoil. Originating in Italy, Baroque acted as an indiscernible transition from the late Renaissance (Carl and Charles 7). Barent’s career saw him residing in London, Leiden, and Amsterdam. He was born on 16th November 1624 and died on 20th October 1673. Pieter Carlesz Fabritius, Barent’s father, was a schoolmaster and artist. Initially, Barent became a carpenter, hence his Latinized nameFabritius, which derives from the Latin word ‘faber’ for carpenter. Barent mainly focused on painting illustrations of mythological, historical, and biblical scenes. Some of Barent’s 1650s works are influenced by the 1640s Rembrandt van Rijn’s style which involved the intensified utilization of shade, light, and shade. Carel Fabritius, who was Barent’s elder brother, also influenced the younger Fabritius (Witt 512). Barent mentored Johannes Vermeer in the arts (Porkopolis.org).
The theme of Barent’s painting relates to the innocence and unadulterated outlooks of young people. Through the steady gaze and serene disposition of the young girl, the artist shows that childhood constitutes complete purity. The girl is fully committed to the otherwise mundane task of plucking feathers off a duck. She is not distracted by any entities in her surroundings. Consequently, Barent indicates that owing to the absence of clutter in young people’s minds, children are capable of giving their entire concentration to issues.
Following visual analysis, I have adjusted my initial impression of Barent’s artwork, thereby discarding the superficial focus on the girl’s feather-plucking activity and instead acknowledging the deep theme of childhood innocence. This realization reflects the knowledge I have gleaned through research, namely, the artist’s focus on biblical or spiritual issues. In the Young Girl painting, Barent emphasizes the spiritual idea of children’s innocence.
Carl, Klaus, and Charles, Victoria. Baroque Art.New York City: Parkstone International, 2009. Print.
El Paso Museum of Art. “Current Exhibitions.” http://www.elpasoartmuseum.org/exhibitions.asp, n.d. Web.
Porkopolis.org. “Fabritius, Barent.” http://www.porkopolis.org/art-museum/artist-index/barent-fabritius/, n.d. Web.