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