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Plucked Clean by William Harnett on the Depict FramePlucked Clean by William Harnett
Plucked Clean by William Harnett

Plucked Clean, 1882

William Harnett

The subject of this still life is a dead rooster, freshly plucked, pimply and ready for the pot. It’s easy to believe that this creature was alive just a moment earlier — you can see feathers floating at lower right. The anatomical, scientific presentation of the dead bird makes sense: Darwin’s theories had sparked a fascination with factual illustration of nature. Artistic concerns are also evident: Harnett specialized in compositions designed to trick the eye into believing the representation is the actual object. There’s humor in it, too — the artist may have meant this scrawny carcass as a tongue-in-check send-up of after-the-hunt trophy portraits.

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