Henry Walton
Plucking the Turkey exhibited 1776

Artwork details

Henry Walton 1746–1813
Plucking the Turkey
Date Exhibited 1776
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 762 x 635 mm
frame: 942 x 820 x 85 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1912
Not on display

Display caption

This painting was exhibited in London in 1776, during the early stages of the war with revolutionary America. Walton’s image of a cookmaid plucking a turkey is an example of the kind of lowly subject-matter denigrated by Sir Joshua Reynolds and the new Royal Academy.

But it may also make a coded political reference. The turkey was very closely associated with America: Benjamin Franklin even proposed that it should become the symbol of independent America, instead of the eagle. The painting may, therefore, be a pro-British comment on the anticipated fate of the rebellious colonists.

September 2004

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