Sunday, September 20, 2015

Cats in Art: Old Woman Praying (Maes)

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.  

Unremembered by me until I searched through my Cats in Art archives, I have previously posted twice on the work of Nicolas Maes, here and here.  The former work, Woman Plucking a Duck, is one that the bride and I actually saw in 2012 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  

Today's image, by the same artist, Old Woman Praying, is in that same genre:

Image credit here, Old Woman Praying, Nicolas Maes, 1655, oil on canvas, 52" x 44", held by Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Zuffi's analysis:

This justly famous canvas is considered to be Maes' masterpiece, and one of the most moving paintings of 17th century Dutch art.  Maes was a a gifted and original pupil of Rembrandt.  The modest yet neat simplicity of the table, and the woman's sincere religious ecstasy create an image of exemplary value.  But the painting contains a surprise, which may elude viewers who are concentrating on the protagonist's intense devotion: a large cat peers out from the lower far right of the canvas, tugging at the tablecloth with its claws.  While the woman is saying her silent evening prayer, the greedy, predatory spirit of the hungry cat makes its appearance.

Which brings us to the close-up (of course!) of that busy kitty down in the right corner:

That is a very bad cat, who not only ignores the act of prayer but attempts to swipe food.  Cats have a way of introducing disorder and chaos into an otherwise orderly situation.  And they don't care.  They don't care.  They're cats.  That's what they do.

As another aside, I may have also seen this work with my own eyes, for the bride and I were at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam last fall.  As we roamed the halls we were deliberately keeping our eyes peeled for, well, cats in art, to use here at Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 7-year old human being).  But if we saw this painting--we simply cannot recall now--we obviously missed the bad kitty in the corner.

Gary note: With my Cats in Arts posts, I encourage you to scope out the art appreciation site Artsy (I have no financial interest in the site, I just like it), where you can explore many aspects of the world of art.  You'll certainly be entertained and enlightened!

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