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, moral and ethical messages to the common people. 

An excellent example of cats in Baroque paintings is Annibale Carracci’s Two Children Teasing a Cat, a boy and a girl hover over a cat on a table and dangle a crayfish in front of it.  The lesson: if you play with fire, you will get scratched.

Two Children Teasing a Cat Annibale Carracci 1590 Metropolitan Museum of Art-Cats in Baroque art

Two Children Teasing a Cat
Annibale Carracci
1590
Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

In much the same manner as Carracci’s painting, Judith Leyster, a Dutch genre painter, reveals the same message in her 1635 Boy and Girl with a Cat and an Eel.  Here, the boy holds an eel up in order to entice a cat; the girl pulls the cat’s tail.  Undoubtedly upset, it is almost certain that it will eventually scratch and bite them both.  The painting is a warning against immoral behavior.

A Boy and Girl with a Cat and Eel Judith Leyster (1609-1660) National Gallery, London

A Boy and Girl with a Cat and Eel
Judith Leyster
(1609-1660)
National Gallery, London

 

In Still Life Dead Game and Fruit and Vegetables (1614) by Frans Snyders, the animals represent virtue and vice, good and evil. A predatory black cat, with piercing yellow eyes, eagerly peers out from under the table watching two cocks fight —the loser, his intended victim.

 

 

The German painter, Chrisoph Paudiss, caught an unusual domestic scene wherein an old man seems to be irritatingly interrupted from reading by a playful cat.

 

Cats in Baroque Paintings Mann mit Katze Christoph Paudiss 1618 Private Collection

Mann mit Katze
Christoph Paudiss
1618
Private Collection

In an entirely different vein, the Italian Giovanni Lanfranco’s 1620, Naked Man Playing with a Cat in Bed, the cat represents woman, lust, and desire in a rather risqué painting for the time. 

Cats in Baroque Paintings, Naked Man Playing with a Cat in Bed Giovanni Ian Franco 1620 Commerce d'Art, London

Naked Man Playing with a Cat in Bed
Giovanni Lanfranco
1620
Commerce d’Art, London

 

Want to know more about the cat in art, history and literature? Then this is the book for you. Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. 

 

Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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