An ancient cat sculpture found in Giza (Egypt)
In the book Cats Are Art, but spelled incorrectly, writer Maria Bustilos argues that our obsession with cats is deeply rooted in our desire to imitate the way they present themselves.
In this sense, humans aspire to certain qualities in cats.
The cat part is also very professional
Cats do not always hold the position of being loved and revered. In ancient times, the temples of the Egyptians often placed a finely sculpted cat to represent the embodiment of the sun god Ra. With skillful hunting instincts, they carry out the task of protecting the pharaohs in the afterlife.
Writing in the book Cats In Art, author Desmond Morris says that for the ancient Egyptians, cats played five distinct roles in the culture: pets, hunters, vermin killers, a common metaphor. for satirical stories or as gods.
From Egypt, cats stretched their tiny claws to Rome and Greece, featured in Norse tales, pulled carts for the goddess Freja, and became companions of agrarian society because of their ability to catch mice.
However, their position suddenly changed in the Middle Ages. When Christianity wanted to weaken ancient civilizations, black cats were seen as symbols of heresy, paganism, and bad luck.
Art in close association with religion has repeatedly “evilized” cats. In The Last Supper, artist Domenico Ghirlandaio paints a cat sitting behind Judas to illustrate reneging.
Freja Seeking Her Husband (1852) by Nils Blommér
Or in the painting Birth of John the Baptist by artist Jan van Eyck, the cat can be a prophecy for the painful death of St. John.
During the Renaissance, the artist Hieronymus Bosch painted the scene where God introduced Eve to Adam in The Garden of Earthly Delights. Right next to it, the artist did not forget to add a cat holding a mouse to signal the dark future that will come to humanity.
Birth of John the Baptist (1422) by Jan van Eyck – Photo: GETTY IMAGES
For the great master Leonardo da Vinci, cats are objects of scientific research but also rich in aesthetics. “Even the smallest cat is a masterpiece,” he wrote in his notebook full of sketches of this charming animal.
Sketches of the artist Leonardo da Vinci – Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Cats reflect social will
Not only carrying the values of the era and religion, cats also have the ability to reflect the artist’s voice related to social issues.
Writing in the science journal Journal18, art history professor Amy Freund says cats embody one of the Enlightenment’s most compelling yet radical ideals: individual freedom. This freedom could destroy the monarchy and break the shackles of slavery.
Excerpt from The Garden of Earthly Delights (1490) by Hieronymus Bosch – Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Amy Freund quotes philosopher Rousseau (also a cat lover) for this: “A hen will obey your commands, if you can make her understand them. But a cat no matter what. fully understand you and still disobey.”
For that reason, Enlightenment philosophers and artists found a companion for their resistance. Sculptor Pierre-Nicolas Beauvallet sculpted the relief La Liberté depicting Liberty sitting opposite a cat.
The relief of La Liberté (1750) by Pierre-Nicolas Beauvallet – Photo: Getty Images
In the 1900s, cats were once again in the attention of artists. The French painter Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen continuously performed allegorical paintings during a period when cats were seen as symbols of the bohemian (especially bohemian women).
Steinlen used her works to advocate for the modern working class and mock the pseudo-standards of the Parisian bourgeoisie.
Suggested As The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō (1850) by Utagawa Kuniyoshi – Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The personification of cats is even more concentrated in Japan. In the early 1940s, the Tokugawa shogunate enforced a ban on painters drawing prostitutes, geishas, and kabuki (singing and dancing skills).
To bypass censorship, Utagawa Kuniyoshi often used cats to illustrate dance and dance artists. Each actor has his own style and personality. The cats in his print are all famous Edo period stars.
Today, cats are no longer burdened with social and religious symbols. Therefore, the way they go into painting is no longer molded and conventional. The forms of cats are described simply, blending into modern human life. Even so, they have never lost their strong attraction.
The Apotheosis Of The Cats (1890) by Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen – Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Olympia (1863) by artist Édouard Manet – Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Hazy Moon cat, Sheng (1846) by Utagawa Kuniyoshi – Photo: Getty Images
Japan is a “cat-crazy” country. Since the 17th century, they have been a source of inspiration for woodcarving artists.
Artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi is so obsessed with cats that most of his works feature silhouettes of them.
Cats Suggested As The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido depicting cat shades became a Japanese classic and made a name for Utagawa.
A series of his other paintings such as Catfish, Four Cats in Different Poses, The Story of Nippondaemon and the Cat… are still printed on ukiyo-e woodblocks to this day.