Cat Playing with Two Dogs
Paulus Potter, Dutch (active The Hague, Delft, and Amsterdam), 1625 - 1654
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.