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 technique of etching. Contemporaries and later connoisseurs eagerly collected the portraits that dominate Visscher's corpus of almost 200 engravings, though they arouse little interest as works of art today.

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.

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Cornelis Visscher, The Large Cat, an engraving

The Large Cat by Cornelis Visscher


More information


A. Griffiths (ed.), Landmarks in print collecting (London, The British Museum Press)


Height: 139.000 mm
Width: 184.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1868-8-22-881 (Hollstein 42)



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