The Cats Castle Besieged and Stormed by the Rats
One particular constituent reversal of the monde renversé topos, that of the cats hunted by the rats, early achieved independence as a subject in its own right, in the form of The Cats Castle Besieged and Stormed by the Rats. As a print, it was popular throughout Europe, from as early as c.1500 in Germany, 1 but the earliest known English example to survive was issued some time after c.1665, qrinted [sic] and Sould by John Overton, though it does not appear in any of Overton’s published catalogues; it is preserved uniquely in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum. A very closely-related version, but without any imprint, is held in the Library of Congress collection. […]
German commentators have noted the popular peasant movements in late fifteenth-century Germany associated with such names as the Bundschuh, and a little later, Armer Konrad. At the time our present print was issued, the tragic upheaval of the English Civil War was still fresh in the memory, and it is quite possible that an earlier (lost) version—or, just possibly, the very version without imprint in the Library of Congress—had been issued in the 1630s or 1640s. But while there is some reason to believe that the rats storming the cats’ castle was sometimes capable of a political interpretation, it seems that for the majority of viewers most of the time it was a purely humorous image.