tag Sign Up for our Newsletter
Site Logo
Don’t miss out on the art world’s most entertaining newsletter - every Friday. And career news every Tuesday.
Become a members
The Best Rats In Art History
Art history cheat sheet to guide you through the Year of the Metal Rat
Art Stuff 25 Jan 2020

We all know lots of famous mice from pop culture, from Mickey Mouse to Danger Mouse and Pinky and the Brain, but what about in art? Well, in aid of the Year of the Rat, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best rats in art history…


Banksy’s Rat

View this post on Instagram

. Archway salvaged from Heathrow Airport.

A post shared by Banksy (@banksy) on

How could we not start with Banksy’s iconic rat?! Perhaps the most famous animal in the art world, Banksy’s rat has been graffitied around the world for decades. An anagram of “art”, Banksy’s rat is like the artist himself, hunted down by others (particularly the wealthy and influential), conducting most of his work at night.


Mouse, Shibata Zen, 1870

View this post on Instagram

Mouse Shibata Zeshin 1870 #shibatazeshin #mouse #art

A post shared by Boris Rorer (@boris.rorer) on

Now this one’s just cute. This fluffy creature looks the picture of innocence, in stark contrast to Banksy’s long-tailed companion, we wouldn’t mind having this guy around.


Mariana, John Everett Millais, 1851

If you look in the bottom right corner of this painting of Mariana, you’ll see a small mouse scuttling away. We’re not sure what he’s fleeing from, but his tiny presence is almost as noticeable as Mariana’s backache. 


Rat King, Katharina Fritsch, 1993

View this post on Instagram

YEAR OF THE RAT 25 January 2020 to 11 February 2021 "Metal" Rat The Zodiacal Rat is the first of the repeating 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac, constituting part of the Chinese calendar system. The Year of the Rat in standard Chinese is (Chinese: 鼠年; pinyin: shǔnián); the rat is associated with the first branch of the Earthly Branch symbol 子 (zǐ), which starts a repeating cycle of twelve years. There are also a yearly month of the rat and a daily hour of the rat (Chinese double hour, midnight, 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.). Years of the rat are cyclically differentiated by correlation to the Heavenly Stems cycle, resulting in a repeating cycle of five years of the rat (over a sixty-year period), each rat year also being associated with one of the Chinese wu xing, also known as the "five elements". #yearoftherat #newyear #chinesenewyear  #rat #katharinafritsch

A post shared by AzharArchitecture (@azhararchitecture) on

Terrified of rats? It may be best to look away now then. This huge work by Katharina Fritsch is inspired by the myth of the rat king, where dozens of rats join together to form one larger-than-life rodent. A shudder just went down our spines…


Bottle with Rat, Unknown, 4th-7th Century BCE


Image via Metropolitan Museum of Art

This little rat dates back hundreds of years. In fact, the animal could even be the “moon monster”, and was made in Peru by the Recuay, a pre-Columbian culture.


The Garden Of Earthly Delights, Hieronymous Bosch, 1490-1510


Image via Wikimedia commons

This creature features in the central panel of Hieronymous Bosch’s best loved work. Running right into a man’s face, we’re not sure we’d like to be stuck in that tube…


Ceramic Bowl with Quinces, Morning Glories, Figs, Hazelnuts and a Mouse, Giovanna Garzoni, 1651-1662

View this post on Instagram

#giovannagarzoni #untopo #topo

A post shared by @ sara.bodini on

We’re all tempted by a fresh fruit bowl, and this little mouse is no different, sneaking around for a fresh piece of quince of fig…


Empty Spaces: Mouse, Mac Adams, 1997


Image via Mouse Interrupted 

Like Banksy’s rat, Mac Adam’s mouse casts a shadow of darkness. This rat is made from art world favourite – the banana – as well as a rock and a rope. 


Text Lizzy Vartanian

You May Also Like

An Interview with Tanzanian Artist Valerie Asiimwe Amani
An Interview with Tanzanian Artist Valerie Asiimwe Amani
What to Catch at the Venice Biennale 2024: Insider Tips for the Artfully Curious
What to Catch at the Venice Biennale 2024: Insider Tips for the Artfully Curious
Weekly Wrap-Up
Weekly Wrap-Up
Why We Need To Stop Glamourizing The Grind
Why We Need To Stop Glamourizing The Grind
How To Self-Boost Your Career While The Art World Is Changing
How To Self-Boost Your Career While The Art World Is Changing
Weekly Wrap Up News
Weekly Wrap Up News


Assistant Curator / Intern
LoZo Gallery - Franklin, PA
Freelance Copywriter
The Armin Bar (NYC|Milan) - Milan, Lombardy, Italy
Deputy Director
Para Site - Hong Kong
 Auction House Intern
New Art Est-Ouest - Hong Kong