10 Hot Rodent Men By the Old Masters

10 Hot Rodent Men By the Old Masters

Everyone's talking about hot rodent men this summer – guys whose pinched faces, sharp noses and close-set eyes are seen as sexy. But guess what? Old Masters have been championing hot rat guys for centuries now. It’s one of history’s hottest looks.
Everyone's talking about hot rodent men this summer – guys whose pinched faces, sharp noses and close-set eyes are seen as sexy. But guess what? Old Masters have been championing hot rat guys for centuries now. It’s one of history’s hottest looks.

Yes, it’s the summer sensation sweeping the nations – you’ve heard of rodents and you have heard of men, but have you heard of hot rodent men? Well, they are having a moment in the internet’s glare and Sotheby’s is here for it.

V ogue declared it ‘The Year of the (Hot) Rat.’ The Guardian proclaims that Gen Z ‘has gone wild for sexy rat guys.’ The New York Times’ Styles desk says, ‘they’re actually the most physically desirable thing a man can be.’

Pinched-faced rat guys are having their moment in the sun – and why not? – but here’s the thing. For years, literally hundreds of years, artists have celebrated some of history’s hottest rodent guys – and they’ve long been the unsung stars of Sotheby’s Old Master auctions. It’s a fact that many paintings executed from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, when not featuring big chaps throwing spears, fighting whales or riding horses around, have a tendency to depict somewhat rodentish subjects. It’s just that until now, we honestly didn’t know how to express this. Now, thanks to the internet we can point out that pulchritudinous types like Timothee Chalamet, Ryan Gosling, Travis ‘Tay-Tay’ Kelce, Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist all embody a look that’s been considered downright captivating for ages.

‘This trend seems to speak to the art historical phenomenon of the dialectic,’ says Daria Foner, Specialist at Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department. ‘For instance, following the Renaissance – a period in which beauty was predicated on symmetrical forms and classical aesthetics – came Mannerism, which saw a turn toward exaggerated and idiosyncratic formal qualities. These changes in taste tend to be cyclical. Imagine, we are moving from Michelangelo’s David to Bronzino’s Portrait of a Young Man.’

This post-Renaissance dose of reality gave hope to nerds, shy guys and normies everywhere. In an era when icons of masculinity tended towards the alpha butch, the arrival of Mannerism allowed that guy with the oversized hooter or peaky expression their moment of glory. And whether it be anonymous figures in Dutch Old Master paintings, American soldiers or British flaneurs, many of these men would, accidentally, or by design, have been unfairly dismissed as also-rans, losers in the looks stakes, victims of poor genetics or just plain uninspiring. But no longer! Read on for our assessment of some of art history’s hottest rodent guys, as decided by a crack team of experts here at Sotheby’s.

Mirabello Cavalori, ‘Portrait of a Seated Man Holding a Book’

History leaves us no clues to the identity of this slight yet compelling man. He’s clearly been caught in the midst of a good read, hence that rather peeved expression. But that only enhances his hot rodent credentials. Bonus points for the trim beard and fantastic collar. Wouldn’t you swipe right on this guy?

RAT RATING: 🐀 🐀 🐀 🐀

John Opie, R.A., ‘Portrait of a Man, said to be the Poet Thomas Moore’

Artist John Opie set London ablaze in the late 1780s as one of King George III’s favourite painters, gaining a rep as a highly sought-after society portraitist. Here, he painted the Dublin-born wordsmith Thomas Moore, a poet renowned for his louche lifestyle (whilst remaining a staunch defender of the Church of Ireland). In this painting, Moore's later corpulence is still some way off, yet our man’s sorrowing expression and the murky setting all scream hungover regret. Maybe he’s thinking about the diaries of Lord Byron he would idiotically burn following his mad, bad and dangerous to know chum’s death in 1824.


Bolognese School, Late 16th Century

Who’s this baby-faced Bolognese? Here we have a slam-dunk hot rodent guy – cute and even concupiscent, peering out of his oddly shaped canvas. Details are sketchy-to-zero about artist and sitter, yet we’re enthralled by this characterful and inexplicably compelling visage. Rat to the max!

RAT RATING: 🐀 🐀 🐀 🐀 🐀

Merry-Joseph Blondel, ‘Portrait of a Man, said to be Charles Viollet’

It’s mildly frustrating that history can’t be more exact about the identity of this smokin’ sitter, other than a strong guess it is Charles Viollet. His expression certainly seems to say, ‘Look, I’m Charles Viollet, viewers of the 21st century! Seriously, you wanna see my passport now?!’ While Charles never achieved fame, his son Paul launched a national French law library and his granddaughter founded one of the earliest and biggest photography libraries in France. And it’s clear from his expression that poor Charles knows he won’t get recognised formally for this painting. Nevertheless let’s pause to pay tribute to this most elegant (spectacles are a welcome enhancement to the hot rodent guy) and smouldering anti-hunk.

RAT RATING: 🐀 🐀 🐀 🐀

John Singleton Copley, R.A., ‘Portrait of an American Military Officer (Captain William Hall)’

Despite his pinched, ruddy visage, aerodynamic beak and somewhat prominent eyes, this specimen of rippling rodent guy was in fact a hero of his time. According to historian David Posnett, ‘William Hall was commissioned as an ensign in 1755 and joined the 45th Regiment, later known as the Sherwood Foresters, at the garrison at Halifax. In May 1756 the English declared war on France and troops in America were allocated to act against French possessions. By 1758 William Hall had been promoted to a Lieutenancy and he took part in the siege and capture of Louisburg in that year.’ So, proof if proof needed that not only are hot rodent guys hotter than the sun and always have been, they have the beating hearts of lions.

RAT RATING: 🐀 🐀 🐀 🐀

Pierre Louis Delaval, ‘Portrait of a Man’

Keeping his options open, artist Pierre Louis Delaval named this lovely portrait Portrait of a Man when he should have named it Chaud Ratatouille d'Homme or something that amply alludes to the powerfully vibrant vermin vibes that emanate from our simmering friend here. A straight-up, hands-down hot rodent guy, make no mistake.


Jacob Ferdinand Voet, ‘Portrait of a Man Wearing a Wig’

On first glance, this comely chap might be the singer in a Led Zeppelin tribute band, small in stature but startling all with an unlikely howl reminiscent of Robert Plant at his most utterly deranged. Yet we are here today to celebrate Jacob Ferdinand Voet’s Portrait of a Man Wearing a Wig as a prime example of historical hot rodent guy. Tear your eyes away from that majestic mane of curls and appreciate instead the delicate nose, hesitant expression and apprehensive, come-hither eyes. A rat roue for your delectation.

RAT RATING: 🐀 🐀 🐀 🐀

 Simon Vouet, ‘Portrait of a Young Man’

Painted by Simon Vouet in Rome around 1622, this hot rat chap portrait is also a compelling study of light and shade – look at the way the light hits the side of rodent guy’s face and the frills of his ruff – a ruff alla lattuga – that all the cool kids were wearing in Rome between 1620-24. But there’s a tendresse here too, an innate sadness to our young man, captured ‘twixt letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’. Hot rat men have feelings too, and Vouet is here to remind us of this fact.

RAT RATING: 🐀 🐀 🐀 🐀

Benjamin Marshal, ‘Portrait of a Man’

Were it not for his busy neckwear, this could easily be the brisk guy who fixes your motor scooter whilst whistling U2 tunes under his breath before informing you that you need new brake pads and, while he’s at it, a new rear light, but he can do it all today for a nice price. In other words, he’s the hot rodent man you need at your side when the road gets rocky. So his face is a bit wonky and ruddy and his ears could probably pick up satellite sports, but so what. That heavy golden frame isn’t there by accident, you know. Treat this hot rat chap with respect and he'll treat you like a queen.

RAT RATING: 🐀 🐀 🐀 🐀

Circle of Leandro da Ponte (called Leandro Bassano), ‘Portrait of a Bearded Man’

Who needs hunky macho men, sweating, groaning and grunting over everything? Why would you want to be benching too many weights in the gym when you could just wow all the ladies with your ruff? Who would choose scything through treacherous jungles, discovering new continents or scrambling up and down majestic mountains when you could just, with a twinkle of those sweet eyes, reduce us all to quivering jellies of desire? That’s right – the internet calls him rodent guy today, but he’s actually an icon of our ages. Soft, gentle, tender and kind, this is the hot rat guy we all want in our lives.

RAT RATING: 🐀 🐀 🐀 🐀 🐀 🐀 🐀 🐀🐀 🐀

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