The Cat's Paw

The Cats Paw by Edwin Landseer
The Cat's Paw by Edwin Landseer is a fascinating painting. What the devil is going on and why? Edwin Landseer was a very well know (in his lifetime) English artist of great talent who specialised in paintings and sculptures of animals, particularly stags, horses and dogs. Maybe he didn't like cats! Judging by the painting above it is possible.

In the painting there are 6 cats (are there more? - not sure). Four are looking at the monkey who is holding a tabby and white cat. One, a black and white cat (see the white left hind leg) is on the monkey's back. This cat is barely seen in this image. The monkey is deliberately holding the paw of the cat on a hot stove while protecting his own foot by turning it at an angle. The monkey looks like he is enjoying it. The cat is in agony, of course.

I cannot find information about Landseer's motivation for painting this work of art, The Cat's Paw. It was painted in 1824 and it is an oil on panel. Landseer died in 1873 and was declared insane in 1872 at the request of his family having suffered for a long time from depression and melancholy (this doesn't mean that he was insane of course). At the time of making the painting he was 22 years old.

My rather rash and speculative guess is that Mr Landseer was a hunting and fishing man. He liked dogs, stags and horses, as stated. Such a person is more a pack animal and pack animals are less likely to be cat lovers. He may have disliked cats and this was one way of showing it. I think he wants to be the monkey!



The Cats Paw to Cats in Paintings

Comments

  1. The picture is a representation of Jean de la Fontaine's fable 'The Monkey and the Cat', in which a monkey gets a cat to pull cooking nuts from a fire in order that he himself doesn't get burned. It's where the modern term 'cat's paw', meaning a shill in an unpleasant matter, comes from. Landseer has painted the subject showing the cruelty of the monkey, possibly believing the original fable to be too comedic. It's possibly a political allegory too.

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  2. Thanks for your comment, which is much appreciated. I need educating!

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  3. I had forgotten about this image completely till just now. I was much younger when I encountered it, and too impressionable emotionally to handle it. It's good that Anonymous wrote in to shed a bit of light on to the subjective mat'l. btw, who is/was "Freddie Fox?" :)

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