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