Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cats in Art: The Cat's Paw (Landseer)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.

Image credit ABC Gallery, here [click  to enlarge].  The Cat's Paw, Sir Edwin Landseer, 1824, oil on canvas, 32" x 29", private collection.

Zuffi's analysis:
This painting, marked by subtle cruelty... shows a monkey trying to burn the cat's paw by holding it over a brazier. Along with the hapless protagonist, the work includes other cats, observing the situation with interest and concern.

The morals of the story:  Monkeys can be a**holes.  Plus cats and monkeys don't mix.  Better stick with the kitties.


  1. Zuffi misses the point. The monkey isn't trying to burn the cat; he's trying to get the chestnuts without burning his own hand, and using the cat as a tool to do it. Landseer is alluding the term cat's-paw, already well established by the time he painted this. (Reportedly this behaviour was observed in a monkey belonging to Pope Julius II.)

    1. That explanation is marginally better, I guess, but the monkey is still being cruel.