The Town Rat and the Country Rat, 1881
A city rat invited a country rat to sample the high life and share a splendid meal. When they were frightened off by a noisy interruption, the country rat refused to return, preferring the peaceful simplicity of the countryside to the dangerous opulence of the town: ‘able to eat unworriedly – And free of indigestion!’
Roux suggested that Moreau illustrate this fable in ‘the Louis XIII style’ and Moreau interpreted this idea loosely, creating a forest of objects based upon real works of art from the 15th century to the 17th (La Fontaine’s) century. He copied several objects in the Louvre, including gold and enamel vessels and elements from a rich still life painting by Jan Davidz de Heem (1606-1683/4). Moreau immerses the viewer in the past while also evoking the Romantic interiors and historicizing tastes of collectors of his own time.
The rats are almost lost from sight amid the luxury. The town rat rushes for the bottle cooler; the country rat is frozen to the spot beside the pie as he turns to look towards the door.