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A Boy with a Mousetrap

Photo credit: The National Gallery, London

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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.

The National Gallery, London



A Boy with a Mousetrap


about 1678-9


Oil on oak


H 19.2 x W 13.3 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bequeathed by Henry L. Florence, 1916

Work type



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Normally on display at

The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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