|In his youth David Wilkie was held in such high esteem by his peers, that he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy despite the fact that he had not quite reached the required minimum age of 24. On his election as a full Academician in 1811 he presented this painting as his Diploma work, a small scene of everyday life that formed a marked contrast to the grand historical subjects that many of his contemporaries had given.|
Wilkie excelled in this kind of low-life subject, which was immensely popular with the public. He was particularly skillful in choosing scenes which were not only entertaining but also, through expressive gestures and carefully posed figures, involved the viewer in a narrative. In this work dogs and boys excitedly scrape at the ground for their prey, certain that a rat is just about to appear.