Sunday, January 17, 2016

Cats in Art: The Rich Man and Lazarus (Bassano)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art.  Having moved on from Stefano Zuffi's marvelous work, The Cat in ArtI am now using some ideas from Caroline Bugler's equally impressive book, The Cat/3500 Years of the Cat in Art.

Today I feature another painting by Leandro Bassano, who is the son of our featured artist from the past two weeks, Jacopo Bassano:

Image credit The Atheneum, The Rich Man and Lazarus, Leandro Bassano, ca. 1580-85, oil on canvas, 52" x 71", held by Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.

And the close up of the kitty there in the lower left (why does it always seem that the cat appears in the lower left corner?):

Bugler's analysis: 

Leandro was the son of Jacopo Bassano, and his works exhibit the family love of animals.  Here he illustrates a parable drawn from Luke 16: 19-31, which tells how the starving beggar Lazarus habitually asked for crumbs from a  rich man's table, but was refused; dogs came and licked his sores.  After his death Lazarus was taken to Paradise, but the rich man was consigned to Hell.  The begging scene seems almost secondary to the animated kitchen scene on the left, where the feast is being prepared.  Here the cat--in similar livery to the dogs--seems far more preoccupied with confronting a monkey than with stealing tidbits from the table.

Couple of my comments.  

--First, the kitty bears a remarkable resemblance to the that the Leandro's dad Jacopo used in Animals Entering the Ark (see my post from 2 weeks ago, here).  One can't help but that think that this gray and white cat was the family pet.

--Second, this painting shows yet again that you can never trust a monkey.  It's plain to see that the primate is taunting the poor cat, who has no other recourse than to assume a defensive posture, prior to kicking the monkey's *ss.

--Note that the cat-monkey theme has appeared before in art.  See my post on The Fall of Man, here; that painting hangs in the magnificent Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, in the Kingdom of the Netherlands (AKA Holland).

Last, you can bet that this rich-poor theme will never be mentioned in any of the Republican debates, as an object lesson on taking care of the poor. 

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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