The History of the Cat in Medieval Paintings:
From literature the cat sprang onto Medieval European canvases depicted as a force of evil and chaos, a mouse catcher, or simply as a disinterested spectator. In the 1475 painting Pilate Washes his Hands, a white cat lies to the side of Pilate perhaps an indication of the influence of evil as Pilate sentences Christ to death.
In the 1480 painting Girl Making a Garland by Hans Suess Von Kulmbach, a girl sits in a window frame making a garland. The sash says “forget me not” while a white cat sits in the opposite blackened window frame disinterestedly watching her.
In another work from the same year, anonymously painted in the style of the Venetian school, entitled Birth of the Virgin, a tranquil domestic scene reveals a woman just having given birth sitting up in a bed ready to accept some eggs offered to her by St. Anne. Another woman in the forefront of the painting has just washed and swaddled the new born Mary, while a dark colored cat walks alongside the bed, having just entered the room from the open door on the right of the picture. The cat could be a representation of the usual house cat, but its color makes us think that it may forebode some sort of doom. It could, of course, simply be a reference to fertility.
In the 15th century painting by Israhel Van Meckenem, The Spinner and the Visitor, a male visitor holds his sword in a suggestive manner as a cat, a symbol of temptation, looks at us. The painting is a representation of solicitation, the woman a prostitute.