Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cats in Art: The Fall of Man (van Haarlem)

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

The bride and I just returned from a couple weeks in Europe, the trip of a lifetime.  We first took a Rhine River cruise downstream from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands.  Then we remained 3 more days each in Amsterdam and Rome.  While in Europe, my Cats in Art became a sort of quest for us and the others of our group, so the next few weeks here on Sundays will be focused on our kitty discoveries in the Old World.

Today's subject comes from the magnificent Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, in the Kingdom of the Netherlands (AKA Holland):

Image credit Rijks Museum, The Fall of Man, Corneleus van Haarlem, 1592, oil on canvas, approx 116" x 88", held in the Ricks Museum, Amsterdam.

The museum website tells us:

In the left background we see God (a cloud with a human face and hands) cautioning Adam and Eve. They may eat the fruit of all of the trees, except the tree of ‘the knowledge of good and evil’. Tempted by the serpent (with a human torso), Adam and Eve nevertheless eat the forbidden fruit, for which they were driven from Paradise.

Couple of points: first, this painting is huge, some 9' high and 8' wide.  It is centrally placed in, and dominates, the long gallery.  

As for content, unfortunately, the Rijks Museum tells us nothing about what for me is the central point of this image: the cat seated between Adam and Eve, being held--inexplicably--by a monkey (I did take a close up image of this kitty/monkey partnership but it's still in my camera... will post it at a later time).

Really?  A monkey??  Although the two critters certainly seem to be buddies, it is beyond me why van Haarlem would have chosen to include this unlikely pair in the image about the fall of Adam and Eve from grace.

Perhaps the animal duo were blamed for the fall, although they certainly seem benign and non-threatening.  

Of course, you can never trust a monkey.

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