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Author: Thomas Balfe

The shared embodiment of humans and animals, and the notion of the ‘creaturely’ human influentially discussed by Anat Pick, have recently emerged as vital concerns within Animal Studies. Aligning its critical stance with these perspectives, this article analyses the small painting in the Rijksmuseum, traditionally attributed to Jan de Baen, which depicts the 1672 murder of the Dutch politicians Johan and Cornelis de Witt. Pamphlets, broadsheets and other contemporary responses to the murder frequently compare the bodies of the De Witts – which were eviscerated, hung upside-down, shorn of body parts and allegedly partially eaten – to animal carcasses. Drawing on these contextual sources, the essay explores how the painting works with and against period constructions of the killing in terms of inter-species violence. It uncovers tentative admissions of human creatureliness in the painting’s representation of the murdered body as a temporal, material and fragile entity.