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Adriaen van der Werff, A Boy with a Mousetrap

Key facts
Full title A Boy with a Mousetrap
Artist Adriaen van der Werff
Artist dates 1659 - 1722
Date made about 1678-9
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 19.2 × 13.3 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Henry L. Florence, 1916
Inventory number NG3049
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A Boy with a Mousetrap
Adriaen van der Werff

A boy sits in a dark room, but a glimmer of light through the window reveals his face and the dead mouse he holds in one hand. The other hand covers the mousetrap. This is not a portrait but an imaginary situation, intended as an entertainment and, possibly, a moral lesson.

The boy lifts his chin to gaze into the distance as if in a dream. His wistful expression would suggest that it’s not the triumph of catching the mouse he’s dreaming of, but something – or someone – nearer to his heart and yet far away. The implication is that if you are trapped by love, you are lost in dreams and unaware of the world around you. The correct place for love was thought to be in marriage.

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