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 elongated figure of a young woman with a book in her left hand, leaning on a musical instrument with her right.  Baldung probably based this painting on the symbolism of Isis/Bast and her sistrum.

 

The Cat in Paintings of the Annunciation

In Jan de Beers 1520 Annunciation, a white cat with the face of a lamb sits peacefully as an angel flies by.

Cat in Annunciation Jan de Beer 1520 Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Annunciation
Jan de Beer
1520
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

In sharp contrast to de Beers Annunciation, in Lorenzo Lotto‘s Venetian version, painted seven years later, the angel Gabriel inspires fear and hesitancy as Mary, seen with her hands up, turns away from him as he appears to her in her bedroom. Outside the window on a cloud, God points a demanding finger at her, proclaiming Mary as the chosen one.  In back of her, a small brown cat jumps away from the angel in seeming fright, sympathetically mirroring Mary’s own feelings. 

Ten years later, Barrocio’s 1585 pen and ink drawing of the Annunciation is much different.  Here the angel seems kind, and Mary, with a halo over her head, is pleased to be in his presence.  The situation is so peaceful that a cat, positioned in the left hand side foreground, contentedly takes a nap, very different from the frightened cat seen in Lotto’s Annunciation.  The symbolic merging of Isis/Bast into Mary is obvious in many of the paintings of the Assumption where Mary, with a crescent moon often painted below her feet, is associated with the sun, stars and moon (Howey, 2003).

The Annunciation Frederico Barocci 1585 Etching, cat in Mannerist and religious paintings

The Annunciation
Frederico Barocci
1585
Etching

 

Cats in the Supper at Emmaus

Cats appear in many of the paintings of the Supper at Emmaus, produced in the early to mid 1500’s.  Painters such as Pontormo, Titian, Tintoretto and Bassano imparted the domesticity of a scene by adding a cat and/or dog usually at odds over some sort of food, and sometimes just an empty bowl.  

 

 

 

 

 

Supper at Emmaus Francesco Bassano 1570, cat in Mannerist and religious paintings

Supper at Emmaus
Francesco Bassano
1570

Cats in Other Religious Paintings

The 1563 Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese, originally commissioned by the Benedictine Monastery of San Giorgio of Maggiore in Venice, highlights both the sacred and profane. On the right side of the painting, a brown and white cat lies on its side, playfully grabbing a face on a large urn with almost human like hands, oblivious to the potential danger of a lithe greyhound in the middle of the picture that has spotted it.

 

           

In Frederico Barrocio’s 1575 Madonna of the Cat, John the Baptist sits next to Mary and teases a cat with a goldfinch, a symbol of Christ’s passion. While Joseph looks on, Mary cradles the baby Jesus in her left arm. 

Madonna and Cat Federico Baroccio 1575 National Gallery, London, cat in Mannerist and religious paintings

Madonna and Cat
Federico Baroccio
1575
National Gallery, London

 

REFERENCES
Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Laura Vocelle