Rembrandt Bugatti (1884-1916, Italian)

Rembrandt Bugatti Holding Lion CubRembrandt Bugatti (1884-1916, Italian) was termed as the “other” Bugatti being overshadowed by his younger brother, the engineer Ettore, who founded the automobile company.  But Rembrandt Bugatti was a talented sculptor who at the age of just 19 exhibited his works at the Venice Biennale and by 27 was awarded the French Légion d’Honneur.   Rembrandt not only captured cats, large and small, in his sculptures, but also other animals as well. His prancing elephant became the mascot for the classic car the Bugatti Royale.

At a young age, Bugatti moved to Paris and would spend hours at the Jardin des Plantes watching the panthers and other animals. It was through these observations, that he molded his great sculptures. “Bugatti did not make sculptures of animals so much as portraits,” says Edward Horswell, director of the Sladmore Gallery. “He saw each animal as an individual. Many sculptors have succeeded in capturing a range of emotions in models with whom they can converse. Bugatti’s uniqueness lay in extending it to his mute subjects.” 

Bugatti, in contrast to other sculptors, observed his animal subjects for days, sometimes weeks, before capturing the subtlety of their expressions in clay. In 1906, in order to expand his sculptural menagerie, Bugatti started making extended visits to the Royal Zoological Gardens in Antwerp.

Bugatti was an introvert and sought to avoid crowds and even his fellow artists.  Bugatti was never really able to capture people in sculpture. One of his only works that includes a girl holding a cat in her outstretched arms is believed to be a likeness of Kathleen Bruce, who would later become the wife of the Antarctic explorer Robert Scott.


Girl Holding a Cat, Rembrandt Bugatti

Girl Holding a Cat


Almost at the pinnacle of success, WWI brought Bugatti’s hopes and dreams to an abrupt end. By 1915, all the animals that he had sculpted in the Antwerp Zoo were killed because of a shortage of food.  Bugatti contracted tuberculosis while volunteering as an ambulance stretcher bearer.  After attending mass in 1916 in Paris, and buying himself a bouquet of flowers, he returned home to his flat and committed suicide at age 31 by turning on the gas.


Rembrandt Bugatti, sculptor

Rembrandt Bugatti at the Antwerp Zoo

Today Bugatti’s 300 sculptures are some of the most expensive in the world, usually commanding prices of more than 3 million pounds apiece.



Cartier Panther, Rembrandt Bugatti

Cartier Panther




Cat Eating from a Plate, Rembrandt Bugatti

Cat Eating from a Plate




Domestic Cat, Rembrandt Bugatti, 1905

Domestic Cat, 1905




Lion, Rembrandt Bugatti




Panther Playing with a Ball, 1906, Rembrandt Bugatti

Panther Playing with a Ball, 1906




Panther, 1911 Bronze, Rembrandt Bugatti

Panther, 1911 Bronze




Panther, Rembrandt Bugatti





Roaring Lion, Rembrandt Bugatti

Roaring Lion


Seated Panther, Rembrandt Bugatti 2

Seated Panther




Seated Panther, Rembrandt Bugatti

Seated Panther




Striding Panther, Rembrandt Bugatti

Striding Panther




Two Panthers, 1905, Rembrandt Bugatti (3)

Two Panthers, 1905




Two Panthers, Rembrandt Bugatti (2)

Two Panthers




Two Panthers, Rembrandt Bugatti

Two Panthers

Want to know more about the cat in art, history and literature? Then Revered and Reviled 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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