From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. Having moved on from Stefano Zuffi's marvelous work, The Cat in Art, I am now using some ideas from Caroline Bugler's equally impressive book, The Cat/3500 Years of the Cat in Art.
Image credit The National Gallery, The Madonna of the Cat, Federico Fiori Barocci, ca. 1575, oil on canvas, 44" x 37", held by The National Gallery,, London, UK.
The Italian artist Barocci evidently loved cats. He drew them on a number of occasions, and incorporated them into several finished paintings....At first sight it appears to be a simple image of a family affectionately playing with a pet, but there is a more tragic undercurrent. John the Baptist is teasing the cat by holding up a goldfinch. While the bird was once a favorite pet for children, it became a symbolic reminder of Christ's passion because of the legend that it acquired its red spot when it flew down to remove a throne from Christ's brow and was splashed with his blood. But the viewer knows that the cat will never catch the bird, and that the fate waiting the chubby baby in Mary's lap can never be avoided.
Seems that Barocci painted this image at least twice. This one is on canvas, and an identical image, but on a panel, is held by the Musee Condi, Chantilly.
The cat is where? Lower left, of course--that's seemingly where they always are. Also, I just wish that we could see the kitty's face, for everyone else in the image is quite contented-looking, if not outright happy. I bet the cat is quite annoyed over having to chase the bird, seeing as how cats are powerless to resist anything with feathers.
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!