Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cats in Art: Leopard Tapestry in the Vatican

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 recently 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 is from  the Vatican.  One of their museums is basically a long hall whose walls are covered with magnificent tapestries from antiquity.

image credit Gary, tapestry in the Vatican, no information available as to artist and date

If I recall correctly, this tapestry was about 2' x 4', or perhaps a notch larger at 3' x 5'.  It is of a spotted cat, which would have to be a leopard, as jaguars from the New World would not yet have been known in the Roman Empire.

This poor kitty looks beat: the eyes are sad, the head downcast, the tail drooping.  Maybe it was captured in some far-ranging African expedition, brought back to Europe, and caged for sport (the Coliseum, perhaps?).

At any rate, this poor guy deserved better, but at least his/her image has been preserved for posterity in Rome, to be seen annually by literally millions of humans.  But somehow, we know that this cat just wanted to be home, so hats off to that unknown artist who so faithfully saw and managed to convey the emotions of this long-ago leopard.

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