Thursday, November 19, 2009

Egyptian cats doing unusual things

I came across one really interesting book in my mummy cat research.  I did not actually read the book, but it has pictures!  In the spirit of The Blue Lantern, I will look at some of them.  I should point out one difference between myself and The Blue Lantern, a truly fine art blog - she actually knows something about her subject.

Let's see, what's this?  "A cat and a mouse engaged in a boxing match supervised by an eagle."  From the 1st or 2nd century.  You can go see it in Copenhagen, if the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek happens to have it out on the day you visit.

Unfortunately the eagle umpire is missing its head.  I love that it's actually grasping the palm leaf with one of its claws.

Today's exercise has one point: mummified cats are the least of it!  How about another one.

On the left we see "A cat slaying the Anophis serpent in front of the ished-tree," on a Book of the Dead papyrus, circa 1280 BC.  This was actually a common subject.  I chose the goriest version available.  This one is owned by the British Museum.

One more, another surprisingly common theme.  This is "a cat herding a flock of geese and a fox looking after a herd of goats while playing the double oboe."  British Museum, again, circa 1150 BC. 

The double oboe is amazing.  The fox has one foreleg sort of hooked over part of it, I guess.  The herd of geese is also amazing.  As is every single thing in this crazy 3,000 year-old picture.

I'm omitting the rat being fanned by its cat servant, and the cat whipping a human while a rat looks on, and many other magnificent things, including plenty of mummifed cat containers, and an X-ray of an actual mummified cat.  If interested at all, be sure to acquire The Cat in Ancient Egypt by Jaromir Malek (1993, British Museum Press), the source of these images.*  Malek mentions the Liverpool auction using extremely careful and unobjectionable language.  I've read a different book by Malek, the Phaidon Press Egyptian Art, typically gorgeous.  But it is deficient in mummy cat.

*  In order, I borrowed images 100, 51, and 96. 


  1. Oh no, you have to show us the cat fanning the rat and the cat whipping the human!

    You're so right about Phaidon. Gorgeous, top notch art books. They can send some to me too. ;)

  2. Love these images, they are so strange and delightful. I too and interested in the cat whipping the human. Sometimes I think my cats would like to do something similar to me yet find it difficult due to the size differential and their lack of opposable thumbs.

  3. That was what they call a "credible threat." The book's already back at the library.

    Well, you have an incentive to track it down. There are some beautiful things in it, and some odd things, and some beautiful, odd things.

    Perfect gift for any cat lover, etc.