Cats in the Enlightenment (Part 14 – Cats in Art – Perronneau, Crespi, Desportes)

CAT ARTISTS PERRONNEAU, CRESPI, DESPORTES

The French painter Jean Baptiste Perronneau (1715-1783), specialized in portraits which were more prestigious and lucrative than landscapes.  Girl with a Kitten painted in 1745, shows a very pretty young girl holding a long haired grey cat, one of its paws held gently in her hand.  The grey of the cat matches the blue of her dress, and the eyes of the cat and the girl’s are almost the same color leading us to recognize a distinct affinity between the two.

 

In another similar portrait, Young Girl with a Cat, the girl is daintily stroking the cat’s head. 

Young Girl with a Cat 1747 Jean Baptiste Perronneau National Gallery, London, Perronneau, Crespi, Desportes

Young Girl with a Cat
1747
Jean Baptiste Perronneau
National Gallery, London

 

Yet another ‘blue’ portrait is of Mme Pinceloup de la Grange.  She stares off into space in a regal fashion holding a somewhat perplexed feline, which resembles a Charteux. 

 

Magdaleine Pinceloupe de la Grange Jean Baptiste Perronneau Private Collection, Perronneau, Crespi, Desportes

Magdaleine Pinceloupe de la Grange
Jean Baptiste Perronneau
Private Collection

 

These portraits stand in marked contrast to Giuseppe Crespi’s (1665-1747) Girl with Cat. Instead of an upper class woman, we see a peasant, with her hair wrapped up, holding a black cat which she teases with a mouse.  Even the color scheme is dark, unlike the light images of Perronneau’s. 

 

Alexandre-François Desportes (1661- 1743), was a French painter and decorative designer who specialized in animals.  In Cat with Dead Game, we see a black and white cat stretching up to reach what looks like a dead chicken. 

Cat and Dead Game Oil on Canvas Alexander Francoise Desportes Private Collection, Perronneau, Crespi, Desportes

Cat and Dead Game
Oil on Canvas
Alexander Francoise Desportes
Private Collection

In a second painting, Still Life with Cat, Desportes’ main character, the cat, extends a greedy paw hoping to grab one of the fresh oysters laid out on the table while its owner has briefly stepped away, indicated by one eaten oyster with a fork nearby.

Still Life with Cat Alexandre Francoise Desportes Private Collection, Perronneau, Crespi, Desportes

Still Life with Cat
Alexandre Francoise Desportes
Liverpool Walker Gallery

 

Cats were often depicted as uninhibited scavengers and stealthy thieves.  However, Desportes, seemingly a cat fancier, did not confine the content of his paintings to their less desirable side, but also painted Kittens at Play which captures the light hearted creatures happily amusing themselves.  

Kittens at Play Alexandre Francoise Desportes Private Collection kittens in art, Perronneau, Crespi, Desportes

Kittens at Play
Alexandre Francoise Desportes
Private Collection

 

Sketches of a Kitten Alexandre Francoise Desportes Private Collection cats in art, Perronneau, Crespi, Desportes

Sketches of  Kittens
Alexandre Francoise Desportes
Private Collection

 

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‘Blue’ because most of the portraits were painted in blue and white colors.

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Comments

  1. Paul Dunne says:

    Very interesting article. Just one comment about the Desportes painting Cat and Dead Game. It’s described as being in a “private collection”, however there is a version of this in the Liverpool Walker Gallery. (Saw it visiting yesterday).

    • LA Vocelle says:

      Thank you for bringing my attention to this. I think that the photo I found was of a print. In any event, I will put the proper credit under the painting.