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Cat Playing with Two Dogs

Paulus Potter, Dutch (active The Hague, Delft, and Amsterdam), 1625 - 1654

Made in Netherlands, Europe


Oil on canvas

36 1/2 x 43 inches (92.7 x 109.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
Cat. 618

Credit Line:
John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

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Peace between Holland and Spain was reached in 1648, only four years before Paulus Potter made this painting. Several elements in the picture suggest a political reading in which the dogs parody declining Spanish power and the cat stands for the strength of Dutch nationhood. In seventeenth-century Holland, spaniels like the two depicted here were called Spanish Dogs. The pooch seated on the cushion wears the kind of earrings that were a hallmark of seventeenth-century Spanish fashion. The large tomcat appears ready to pounce on (and perhaps subdue) these effeminate little creatures. The artist moved to Amsterdam the same year he painted this witty allegory, which was probably for one of his sophisticated patrons there.