Image credit The Athenaem, The Nosegay, Ford Madox Brown, ca 1865, watercolor on paper, 18" x 12", held by Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England.
And the kitty close up:
The artist shows his teenage daughter Cathy picking flowers in a garden while a tortoiseshell and white cat affectionately nuzzles her in a characteristically cat-like gesture. The tender gesture and the bow around the cat's neck are all part of Brown's intention to produce an appealing picture that would attract "patrons who wanted something pretty." His compositions often involve complicated symbolism, but this picture appears to be free of such content....
I love the calico, having had a couple of them in our lives over the years (most recently Tizzy, whom I hope to have immortalized here). I agree with Bulger that this painting is exactly what it seems to be: a carefree and innocent domestic scene devoid of any sinister undertones--just a pretty young lady with pretty flowers and a pretty cat.
Bulger's other comment that struck me was this one: "His compositions often involve complicated symbolism, but this picture appears to be free of such content...."
As I researched this image and others from Brown, there were two others that really jumped out at me, and I strived mightily to find a feline in those paintings. But alas, though I failed to find a kitty, those other paintings were so interesting I'm including them here anyway.
The Coat of Many Colors: just look at the various eyes in this painting! Can you say the word agenda?
And Stages of Cruelty: what a bizarre image to try to unpack!
[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!]