Sunday, August 12, 2018

Cats in Art: The Angora Cat (Fragonard)

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).

This will be the fourth of 5 posts on the cat art of Jean-Honore Fragonard.

Image credit The Athenaeum, The Angora Cat, Jean-Honore Fragonard, ca 1783, oil on canvas, 25" x 21", held by Wallraf-Richartz-Museum Fondation Corboud  (Germany - Cologne).

And the kitty close-up:

And the even closer close-up:

First off, this may well be another version of Fragonard's peculiar white kitty from the past several weeks, though the telltale cat face is turned away.  And try as I might, upon initial inspection I cannot tell whether the cat is playing with a dead animal, a toy, or a mirror.  Equally puzzling, that light rectangular patch looks much like a radio, very non-1780s.

Ah, the limitations of the 2-dimensional printed page.  If only someone could describe the painting from real life....

Fortunately, we have such a description, from Wallraf Museum web site:

On the eve of the French Revolution, the fashionable world was getting used to the idea that courtly ceremonial would be giving way to a more modest, bourgeois lifestyle. In art, this found its expression in a new predilection for genre scenes, simple costumes and hair worn loose. It was no longer the classicism of Rome, but undramatic art in the style of the Netherlands that was in demand. This painting reflects the new spirit. It shows a young, fashionably dressed woman in Dutch-looking surroundings. The carpet on the table, the painting in the background and the elderly servant are typical of works that we would normally assign to the seventeenth century. But the grace of the leading lady quickly puts the picture in its place: at the heart of the Rococo era. 

In the centre of the painting is a curious scene: evidently a black cloth has just been taken off the silver globe. An Angora cat has discovered her reflection and may have decided it is a rival. The globe also reflects what is going on behind us, so to speak: a woman is sitting at an easel in a small room with two other people.

Sometimes closer is not better.  Go back to the original painting at the top.  There in between the cat and the woman is the large reflective ball, about twice the size of the cat.  It touches both of them, the cat on the left and the woman on the right.  You can now easily perceive the reflected cat and the reflected woman.  The black cloth is lying on the table.  So far so good.  

But what my old eyes still can't quite make out in the reflection is the woman at an easel, and the pair of other people.  And the center of the ball still seems to reflect a window or something that is off-painting. But keeping mind that I'm looking at a reproduction that's only a couple of inches in size while the original painting is about 2 feet square.  

See, I'm not there in the actual room of the actual museum with the actual I guess this could be yet another excuse for an art road trip?  I could call it the Cats in Art Tour and sell exclusive spaces.  I'm pretty sure I'll become very wealthy. 

Anyone interested (this is a serious question)?

[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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