Dulwich Picture Gallery II


British School DPG413

British School after a print by Cornelis Visscher II
DPG413 – Boy with a Candle and Girl with a Mousetrap

c. 1648–86; canvas, 64.5 x 89.5 cm

Cartwright Bequest, 1686 (no. 172, £2, 'a he foole with a candell & a shee foole with a mous-trap a Long Large picture in a black frame’).

Sparkes & Carver 1890, p. 41, no. 92 (Heads of two Rustics); Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, p. 116, no. 413; Cook 1914, p. 236 (Artist Unknown); Cook 1926, p. 220; Cat. 1953, p. 47; Murray 1980a, p. 302 (Italian School);1 Beresford 1998, p. 308 (Unknown);2 Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 310 (British School after Cornelis Visscher II); RKD, no. 281756: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/281756 (Feb. 22, 2017).

London 1987–8, pp. 26, 60–61, no. 51 (N. Kalinsky; Dutch School).3

Medium plain-weave linen canvas, lined onto coarser similar. The original tacking margins have been retained and are stapled at the top and side, and elsewhere the margins have been glued to the stretcher. A paper label on the verso reads ‘№ 172’. There is some thinness of the paint layer, particularly in the background, and various fills have been retouched and are well matched. Two, more obvious, fills in the top quarter of the painting, near the right and left edges, are easily visible in normal light. The varnish has discoloured to an orangey tone, and is thicker in the interstices and paint texture; this gives parts of the painting (particularly the lighter areas, such as the flesh) an uneven, mottled appearance. No previous recorded treatments for this painting.

1) Cornelis Visscher II, The Mousetrap; Boy with a Candle and Girl with a Mousetrap, c. 1650, engraving and etching, 135 x 193 mm. RPK, RM, Amsterdam, RP-P-OB-62.094 [1].4
2) Vincenzo Campi, Mangiaricotta (The Ricotta Eaters), canvas, 72 x 89.3 cm. Private collection, Cremona.5
3) Gerard van Honthorst, The Soldier and the Girl, c. 1622, canvas, 82.6 x 66 cm. Herzog Anton Ulrich- Museum, Brunswick, 178 [2].6
4) Attributed to Gerard Dou and an anonymous painter, Boy with a Candle and a Mousetrap, c. 1650, panel, 30 x 23.3 cm. The Leiden Collection, New York (previously MH, on loan from M. C. van den Honert, Hilversum; Frederik Muller & Co., Amsterdam, 17 Oct. 1905, lot 39).7
5) Gerard Dou, The Mousetrap, signed GDov, c. 1670–75, panel, 26.5 x 21 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, no. 1721, until 1924).8
6) Adriaen van der Werff, A Boy with a Mousetrap, signed A. Vander. Werff. fe., c. 1678–9, panel, 19.2 x 13.3 cm. NG, London, NG3049 [3].9

This was painted, somewhat crudely, most probably in Britain, clearly after a print made c. 1650 by the Dutch artist Cornelis Visscher II. The print is much smaller than DPG413, which is in size and composition somewhat comparable to DPG358. It shows a lower-class boy with a candle and a girl with a mousetrap (Related works, no. 1) [1]. Such prints travelled around Europe at amazing speed. Similar large-scale ‘rustic’ heads are also found in Northern Italy, which is likely to be the reason why Murray attributed DPG413 to the Italian School (Related works, no. 2).10 It is most probable, however, that Cartwright purchased pictures that were produced locally in London.

The way the figures are lit from below is very like The Soldier and the Girl by Gerard van Honthorst (1592–1656) in Brunswick (Related works, no. 3) [2]. Honthorst specialized in this kind of light effect, which he developed from Italian (Caravaggio (1571–1610)) and Spanish (El Greco (1541–1614)) examples. The girl there is blowing fire tongs in the light of a torch and the soldier grabs her bare breast: the painting has an explicit sexual meaning.

The figures in DPG413 are much younger than Honthorst’s soldier and girl, at least the boy is, and our girl with the mousetrap is decently covered by her dress. However the mousetrap had an amorous meaning in Dutch emblematical publications of the early 17th century: in Daniël Heinsius’s Emblemata Amatoria (1607/8) and Jacob Cats’ Sinne- en Minnebeelden (1627) mousetraps with mice in them and often a cat lurking, with or without a Cupid, are warnings not to be trapped by lust. The boy’s candle is a warning of the brevity and danger of lust.11 In paintings by fijnschilders such as Gerard Dou (1613–75) and Adriaen van der Werff (1659–1722; Related works, nos 4–6) [3] the mousetraps are accompanied by children, who seem to be playing with them (or with birdcages, which have the same meaning). Why in Cartwright’s inventory the figures are called ‘fools’ is not clear, as they do not have any attribute that refers to jesters (such as the fool’s cap seen in Cartwright’s Jester, DPG512). Probably he thinks they are foolish, because they will be trapped by the symbolic candle and mousetrap.

British School after Cornelis Viscsher II
Boy with a Candle and Girl with a Mousetrap, c. 1648-1686
canvas, oil paint 64,5 x 89,5 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG413

Cornelis Visscher (II)
Mousetrap; Boy with a Candle and Girl with a Mousetrap, 1648-1658
paper, engraving, etching 135 x 193 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-OB-62.094

Gerard van Honthorst
The Soldier and the Girl, c. 1622
canvas, oil paint 82,6 x 66 cm
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./cat.nr. 178

Adriaen van der Werff
Boy with a Mousetrap, c. 1678-1679
panel (oak), oil paint 19,2 x 13,3 cm
London, National Gallery (London), inv./cat.nr. NG3049


1 Note by Murray in DPG413 file: ‘413: Cerquozzi-type Realtà / Proverb? / Cipper ? No, more Ceruti / Cartwright 1686 / no 172 / Cipper / Ceruti type but date? / C. Ceruti adv. in BM 1953 / Lacemakers, Salvadego coll. / A. [= R. ] Longhi – was 159 in 1953 Realtà Exh. – / cat says: dubious 1724 on back of port / 1737 on 1 ptg & dors 1734 & ’38. Active Brescia & prob Venice.’

2 Beresford 1998, p. 308, wrongly says ‘Catalogued until 1987 as Italian, then as Dutch school’: of the earlier catalogue authors only Murray (1980a) attributed it to the Italian School.

3 Guido Jansen made suggestions for the entry by Kalinsky, which were elaborated by Ann Thackray: note in DPG413 file.

4 RKD, no. 281757: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/281757 (Feb. 22, 2017); see also http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.191125 (May 14, 2020); Schuckman 1992a, pp. 48–9, no. 44. For BM version (BM, London, D,8.121) see https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_D-8-121 (second state; May 14, 2020).

5 Porzio 1998, pp. 126 (fig.), 293, no. 6.

6 RKD, no. 63232: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/63232 (April 3, 2013); Spicer & Orr 1997, pp. 239–41 (no. 36), 421–2 (L. F. Orr); De Jongh 1976, pp. 127–9, no. 28.

7 RKD, no. 49017: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/49017 (Feb. 23, 2017); Baer 2009/1990, cat. C81 (Martin 1913, p. 151). See also http://theleidencollection.com/archives/artwork/Dominicus_Van_Tol_DT-100_2017-01.pdf (April 30, 2017; as Dominicus van Tol, c. 1664–5).

8 Laabs 2001, p. 127; Baer 2009/1990, cat. C88 (Martin 1913, p. 167).

9 RKD, no. 297805: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/297805 (July 13, 2020); Aono 2015, p. 200, fig. 2; MacLaren & Brown 1991, i, pp. 482–3, no. 3049, ii, fig. 408; Gaehtgens 1987, pp. 201–2, no. 6; De Jongh 1976, pp. 284–7, no. 75.

10 Although Giacomo Ceruti is an 18th-century artist (see note 1), so it is impossible that his work entered Cartwright’s 17th-century collection. See also e.g. Guratzsch 1998, pp. 260–62, no. I/21, Northern Italian, Four People with a Dog (panel, 51 x 67 cm, Leipzig, coll. Speck von Sternburg, no. 1674), which shows peasants laughing, clearly meant to amuse the viewer. See also Porzio 1998 for 16th- and 17th-century examples.

11 For instance in the emblem of a Cupid looking at a candle, with the motto Brevis et damnosa volvptas (short and dangerous is lust), in Otto Vaenius’ Amorum emblemata (1608): see https://emblems.let.uu.nl/v1608052.html (July 13, 2020).

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