Chaïm Soutine: the Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker

Dressed from head to toe in a vibrant red uniform with gleaming gold buttons, hands defiantly on hips, legs spread wide, the bellboy perfectly captures the tension, seen throughout the exhibition “Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters & Bellboys,” between personal dignity and professional subservience. A Russian émigré and the son of a poor Jewish tailor, Soutine rarely gave his portraits titles (hence the generic ones provided here), let alone bothered to note the names of his sitters. And yet he is known for posing his anonymous subjects like the royalty of yore: the bellboy’s regal red livery is reminiscent of ceremonial dress; and a pastry cook, his fluffed-up white cap perched on his head like a bejeweled crown, sits resplendent in a kitchen chair like a monarch on his throne.

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