Click image for larger, ESC to return. Image credit German History Docs, Portrait of Franz Pfoor, Johann Friedrich Overbeck, c. 1810, oil on canvas, 24" x 18", held by Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany.
Zuffi's fills in the history:
Overbeck [the painter] was their leader [of an artistic group called the Nazarenes], but Pfoor was an emerging talent. Sadly, he died very young, and Overbeck dedicated to him this posthumous portrait, filled with symbolism and grief. The cat that rubs itself against its master, purring, adds a heart-rendering, intimate touch, and is a prominent part of this perfectly happy environment in which Overbeck wished to remember his dead friend.
So we have a cat being a posthumous buddy to a young man who died young. A job a cat can clearly handle: purring and rubbing. I can see where the Egyptians wanted cats mummified to help in the afterlife--makes a lot of sense to me.
As for young Franz, his eyes look sad and/or mistrustful--a sort of cautious wariness fills them. I hope he did not die unhappy.