The Butcher

Cesáreo Bernaldo de Quirós

The Butcher (Los Gauchos series) (1926) by Bernaldo de Quiros CesareoMuseo Nacional de Bellas Artes de Argentina

During his stay in Entre Ríos, Quirós spent a long time in the town of Médanos, in the ranch of El Palmar owned by Justo Sáenz Valiente. From there, he traveled to different parts of the province on horseback to "capture the past life, the warrior and romantic life of that province whose history was shaken by many great passions. The gaucho appeared to me at every turn of the road, and in each pulpería (Argentine saloon) memories arose of a genteel time that filled the fields with sentimental echoes and red banners." Thus did he record the uses and customs of the locals. To execute these oil paintings, he used countrymen dressed in traditional clothes as models.

As with The Butcher, he used a naturalistic approach when painting this series. The powerful figure of the butcher is central to the composition.

In the foreground we see a freshly butchered cow's head...

…behind it, a half carcass of beef next to the assistant, and in the background, an eaves and the exit to the outside.

The faces of the characters are meticulously drawn with a loose, frank brushwork; the pieces of meat are depicted in the same fine detail.

The gaze of the butcher and his assistant, directed toward the spectator, generate a tension reinforced by light contrast and color modulations.

The body language of the old man with the knife in his hand and of the assistant hanging and organizing the beef are reminiscent of an instant photograph.

The traditional 'verijero' knife is used both to skin cattle and to carve meat. The blade is no more than 6 inches long and has a single edge and pointed tip to make work easier. It gets its name from the fact that it was carried at the level of the groin (verija in Spanish), in a sash worn around the waist.

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