15th - 20th Cent. Masters
In this seemingly straightforward etching, The Hog, it would seem that Rembrandt merely wanted to show the excitement of a typical family when the time came to render their sow. All came to the moment when the hog would become a bounty for the family, and the excitement was palpable. Upon closer inspection, we find a boy behind the sow holding an inflated pig's bladder from a previous rendering. In Rembrandt's lifetime, a pig's bladders had several uses, all based on their properties as a lightweight, stretchable container that could be filled and tied off. However, they also had symbolic meanings. Over the years, some historians have believed that Rembrandt was inserting a hidden meaning, consistent with a common symbol used in some cultures as a reference to transience and the temporary nature of life and happiness. However, it is likely that Rembrandt paid homage to the hog/sow as not only a valuable food source but as an actual utility, which for the artist himself, provided the ability to store his valuable paints. For centuries before the invention of the paint tube, artists stored their paints in pig bladders. Paint tubes were not invented until the 1840s, so a pig's bladder would have been used by Rembrandt to hold his paints in the 1600s.