Monday, September 30, 2013

Rat and mouse traps in Art 1270-1869

Gerrit Dou painted "The Mousetrap " circa 1650.  (Musee Fabre)  This closeup of the mousetrap also shows the mother peeling carrots.   Different types of traps appeared in sketches and paintings over the decades and a recipe from 1795. 

The sketch by Nicolas de Larmessin (d1694) "Layettier" (Cheesemaker) included several traps.


It works!  "Caught by greed.  A mouse, king of the pantry..." 1453
HERE for more of the caption.

There were various Cries of London trap sellers.  The following one is "Buy a trap, a rat trap, buy my trap" by Rowlandson in 1799.

And from Francis Wheatley in the 1790s -  
Edmund Bristow (1787-1876) "Rat Trap"

Rat catcher from Chamber's Book of Days, London: 1869 -

"The profession of the rat-catcher is an old and a universal one. In Italy, in the seventeenth century, as we learn from Annibal. Caracci's illustrations of the Cries of Bologna, this kind of professional went about with a pole bearing a square flag, on which were representations of rats and mice. The Chinese rat-catcher carries, as the outward ensign of his craft, a cat in a bag. One of the many exquisite engravings of Cornelius Vischer (born at Haarlem, 1610), gives us the Dutch rat-catcher of that day with all his paraphernalia—a sketch so lifelike and so characteristic that its fidelity cannot be doubted. Our artist here gives what we are happy to consider a tolerable transcript of this humorous print. In the original, the following inscription is given in prose form:

By the cat you put rats to flight.
If you drive away little thieves by great ones, it is utter folly.
Look at me; provided only a little coin is forth-coming,
I will put both rats and cats to flight.

And cat as mousetrap... a picture of a cat stalking a mouse c1270 from a large links list of Medieval and Renaissance cats compiled by   

To see a variety of wooden traps from the 1590 book click HERE
A Booke of Engines and traps to take Polcats, Buzardes, Rattes, Mice and all other kindes of Vermine and beasts whatsoever, most profitable for all Warriners, and such as delight in this kinde of sport and pastime by Leonard Mascall, 1590.

To Drive away Rats.
Take the expressed juice of the stalk or leaves of the deadly nightshade, and make it into a soft paste with oat meal or wheat flour; place it in the holes or tracks which the rats frequent; and though they will not eat it, yet it is so disagreeable to them, that they will instantly leave the premises.
Hudson, Mrs.  The New Practice of Cookery, Pastry, Baking, and Preserving… Edinburgh: 1804

To make a Mouse Trap. (the food for humans to eat)

TAKE a pint of cream and eggs, prepared as if for custards to put into cups, fill your dish and have ready some fine jar raisins stoned, or dried cherries, stick these into the custard, have ready some clear barley-sugar as none else will do, set it by the fire till it dissolves, so draw it out into lengths and cross it, draw some of it as small as a thread, let the custard be cold in the dish before this is put on, garnish as you please.

To make a Custard.
TAKE a piece of sponge cake, or seed cake, lay it on a piece of paper in an oven, turn it over and toast it well, then cut it into square pieces, lay it on the dish you intend to send it up on, warm as much white wine with a little sugar and nutmeg as you think will soak it, pour it on the cake, keep turning it till its all soaked up, then pour over it a boiled custard, but let both be cold first, stick it with long pieces of candied orange, lay round the custard wine sours, damsons or any other red sweetmeats, garnish with flowers.
Martin, Sarah.  The New Experienced English Housekeeper.  Doncaster: 1795
©2013 Patricia Bixler Reber

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