Sunday, February 11, 2018

Cats in Art: The Artist Painting, Surrounded by his His Family (Van Veen)

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.  You really should check out and/or own both of these wonderful works, easily available on Amazon or eBay (and I have no financial interest).

The bride and I just returned from a wonderful vacation in France this fall where we were privileged to see both the Louvre and Orsay Museums.  Of the two, the Orsay was much better--less crowded, could get closer to the paintings, more cats.

Image credit Wikimedia CommonsThe Artist Painting, Surrounded by his His Family, Otto Van Veen, 1584, oil on canvas, 69" x 98", held by The Louvre, Paris, France.

And the kitty close-up:

From the Frederic Vitoux and Elisabeth Foucart-Walter book Cats in the Louvre:

To each indiviudual he [Van Veen] carefully allotted a tiny figure (it appears above their head and is admittedly difficult make out in a reproduction), which refers to the numbered list of the first names of the nineteen family members represented on the cartouche to the right.  But the name of the cat, who also formed part of the household, he simply forgot, so we will never know what [the name was of] the engaging-looking puss rubbing up against the cartouche on the left (which stipulates that the picture is to remain in the artist's estate) and who is being fussed over by a little girl named Elizabeth, which was the name of a niece of the painter.

This unnamed male cat has the skinniest tail I have ever seen.  And it's obviously a mild-manned kitty--just look at the expression on his face.  And evidently beloved, as the painter saw fit to include him in the painting of his family and thus be immortalized forever.

I've ranted about cat names before--one of my pet (ha ha) peeves.  But I'll do it again here.  Whenever I am asked, "What is your cat's name?" I never answer, for example "Her name is Amanda."  Instead I always say "We call her Amanda," because I maintain that people can never really know the true name of a cat--what they call themselves.  All we know is the name we have stuck on them.

[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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