The Rat Catcher

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

Dutch, 1606 - 1669

The Rat Catcher, 1632

  • Not On View

Etching on paper

Dimensions: 5 1/2 × 4 15/16 in. (14 × 12.5 cm)

Gift of The Whiting Foundation through Mr. and Mrs. Donald E. Johnson, 1970.15

Dutch artist Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn began etching early in his career, eventually creating about 300 prints. Though he was also a painter, he rarely depicted the same subjects in both media, and only sometimes reproduced his paintings in print form. He owned a large collection of prints by earlier masters such as Albrect Dürer and Antonio Tempesta (artists represented in this section), and he often drew inspiration from their work. Above all, he was a great innovator and experimenter in this medium, and his impact on printmaking is still reflected in etchings produced today. He treated the printing plate like a canvas, leaving some ink or tone on the surface of the plate to create “painted” impressions, in which each impression would look different depending on how it was inked. He also experimented with different types of paper. This work depicting a rat catcher going door to door to sell his services is a good example of Rembrandt’s interest in popular types and genre scenes. The artist has included amusing details, such as the rat (who seems more a pet than a pest) perched on the peddler’s shoulder and the look of disgust and horror on the face of the homeowner.

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