Images of cats from the British Museum collection, £9.99
Height: 139.000 mm
Width: 184.000 mm
PD 1868-8-22-881 (Hollstein 42)
Prints and Drawings
Cornelis Visscher, The Large Cat, an engraving
The Netherlands, AD 1657
Together with an etching by Hollar, this is the
most famous of all prints of cats. Visscher (1629-1658) was a
professional engraver of his own and other artists'
designs. This was an unusual occupation in seventeenth-century
Holland where artists generally adopted the less demanding
Visscher has admirably captured the quality of stiff whiskers and soft fur, with a glossy sheen on the highlights. The cat appears large because it crowds the frame, leaving just the corners for the arched window, the stone that announces Visscher's authorship, the silhouetted foliage in front of its nose, and the diagonal lines of engraved shadow above its head. The cheeky mouse, emerging from the safety of the window bars, injects a small element of drama into an otherwise uneventful scene.
Visscher's preparatory drawing for this signed engraving, recorded in a sale of 1883 but now lost, was dated 1657.
A. Griffiths (ed.), Landmarks in print collecting (London, The British Museum Press)