Cornelis Visscher II – The Large Cat, c.1657

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Engraving: The Large Cat, also known as Cat Sleeping. Second (final) state, a good impression with margins on laid paper. Signed in the plate on a stone “Corn. Visscher fecit” and lettered below the image: “C Visscher Excudit. Displayed in an 18th century carved, ebonised and parcel gilt print frame. Notes: Hollstein 42.

Platemark: 14.4 x 18.6 cm.
Sheet: 19.1 x 23 cm.
Image: 13.6 x 18.4 cm.
Frame: 32.7 x 39 cm.


A preparatory drawing was sold in 1883 but has been lost. More recently on 03 Nov 2022 a good example of the print was sold at Swann Galleries in New York for £6,710 including premium. The condition is not perfect which is reflected in the price, however it has been beautifully restored and conserved. Please read the condition report.

Condition: The print has been lined to consolidate two skilfully repaired tears. The first is a fine star puncture measuring approximately 1.5 cm, in the nape of neck of the cat. This tear has been sensitively touched in along with two other minor scuff marks. The second is a vertical tear approximately 3.5 cm from the bottom of the sheet to the edge of the image (bottom right). All work including mounting has been carried out by an accredited paper conservator.

Renowned for his close observations of nature, Visscher engraved one of the most famous portrayals of the cat in Western art. The large tabby cat is crouching at rest, but its protracted front paws and alert ears may indicate that it is lying in prey. Visscher expertly expresses the stiffness of the cat’s whiskers, and the softness of its fur. A mouse is emerging through the bars of an arched window to the left behind the cat but seems paralyzed by the ambiguous posture of his enemy. It is possible that Visscher’s depiction of a sleeping cat, ignoring the mouse creeping out behind it, is alluding to a Biblical verse, Proverbs 19:15, that ” Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.”


Visscher II, Cornelis (1629-1658)

Cornelis Visscher (1629 in Haarlem – 1658 in Haarlem), was a Dutch Golden Age engraver and the brother of Jan de Visscher and Lambert Visscher. Leading line-engraver and publisher. According to Houbraken he was an able etcher who made famous prints (in his lifetime), and who had an unusual talent for drawing after a live model with charcoal that was unparalleled. Houbraken mentioned that his works could be seen in the collection of the rich Dutch East India Company director and art collector in Amsterdam who had a large art cabinet, Jeronimus Tonneman. Prints by Visscher's hand were made after various famous painters from Haarlem such as Nicolaes Berchem, Adriaen van Ostade, Pieter van Laer and Adriaen Brouwer. According to the RKD he had two brothers, Jan de Visscher and Lambert Visscher (1633-ca.1690), and he was the pupil of Pieter Claesz Soutman. He made a series of portraits in print of religious figures from Amsterdam and Haarlem. He joined the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke in 1653. He influenced Dirk Helmbreker and Cornelis Bega. His pupil was Jan Aelbertsz Riethoorn. Kornelis de Visscher in De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (1718) by Arnold Houbraken, RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History