ORIGINS OF THE STORY PUSS IN BOOTS

The popular story that we know today as Puss in Boots, originated as a fable written by Giovanni Straparola (1480-1557), in his Facetious Nights. The fable recounts the plight of three poor boys whose mother, Soriana, has only three possessions of value:  a kneading trough, a pastry board and a cat.  Knowing that she is […]

THE CAT IN SHAKESPEARE

The cat is referred to in many of Shakespeare’s 37 plays, albeit always negatively.  And it was Shakespeare who borrowed the name Tybalt from the fable Reynard the Fox, and used it in his play Romeo and Juliet, wherein Mercutio insultingly remarks that Tybalt is a “rat catcher” and the “king of cats.” He also […]

Cats in Early Modern Period Literature – Beware the Cat 1570

Perhaps not so surprising, the first novel written in English is entitled Beware the Cat by William Baldwin (1515-1563), and includes cats as the main characters. What dog could live up to this claim to fame? First published in 1570, during the Reformation, and set in Ireland, it is a satire on Catholicism; an attack […]

CAT POETRY OF THE EARLY MODERN PERIOD

Cats made their mark upon men’s hearts, whether for better or for worse, throughout the poetry and literature of the Early Modern Period.  John Skelton (1460-1529), a poet laureate under Henry VII and Henry VIII’s Jester, wrote a poem much like Agathias did in 550 AD entitled, Philip Sparrow.   Philip Sparrow “When I remember […]

Henry Wriothesley and His Cat Trixie

Not all of the cat’s adventures during the Early Modern Period are marked by cruelty.  Interspersed between tales of horrible abuses, stories and poems of gratitude to the cat have survived.  Quite similar to several earlier stories of men imprisoned in the Tower of London, who were saved from starvation by beneficent cats, it was […]

CATS IN THE REFORMATION

  Shadowing the great rebirth of the Renaissance was the Reformation.  When in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, a reform movement sprang up, Protestantism. Cats, somehow representative of Catholicism, and always victims of man’s abuse, became a key symbol for English reformist protests. Often […]

CATS IN BAROQUE PAINTINGS (Part 2)

The Dutch painters of the golden age turned to realism instead of religious subjects, as portrait painting was much more lucrative. Dutch genre paintings tend to illustrate everyday life at all levels of society, and cats, essential to most households, are often in these still lifes and portraits. In The Katzen Familie (1650), the Dutch […]

CATS IN BAROQUE PAINTINGS (Part 1)

By the 1590’s, the Baroque style was just beginning to spread across Europe. Noted for its dramatic use of line and vivid color, the style, through its energy and movement, expressed power and control.  Favored by the church, the main patron of art at the time, the easily understood Baroque style conveyed the church’s religious, […]

THE CAT IN MANNERIST AND RELIGIOUS PAINTINGS

The Cat in Mannerist Paintings Paintings in the Mannerist style, an artistic movement which blossomed from the Renaissance, focused less on naturalistic portrayals.  Hans Baldung, a student of Albrecht Dürer, usually known for his renditions of profane witches, in a later allegorical Mannerist work entitled, Music (1484), a harmless white cat sits next to an […]

CATS IN RENAISSANCE ART

Cats in Renaissance Art Continued…..  Relying heavily upon classical Greek models, the 1504 engraving, Adam and Eve by the German, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), captures Eve right at the moment she accepts the apple of knowledge from the serpent. Surrounding both Adam and Eve are a variety of animals that symbolize differing human temperaments.  The cat […]