Thomas Woodward

The Rat-Catcher and his Dogs

exhibited 1824

On display at Tate Britain

Medium
Oil paint on mahogany
Dimensions
Support: 432 x 540 mm
frame: 710 x 813 x 110 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by Edward Archer 1892
Reference
N01379

Display caption

The village rat-catcher, resting on the steps, is identified not only by the cage containing live vermin at his side, but by his unusual hat-band, portraying his prey. A cat stalking the caged rats, ignored by the man absorbed in playing with his terriers, introduces a note of humour to the scene. The purpose of the rat-catcher’s occupation was probably straightforward pest control, although ‘ratting’ – when dogs competed to kill live rats in a pit – was a popular blood sport. Woodward was employed as an animal painter by Queen Victoria but he also produced landscapes and historical subjects.

Gallery label, February 2016

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