British Museum cats


The Department of Asia in the British Museum has one of the largest collections of historical artifacts from Asia, consisting of over 70,000 objects; included among them are paintings and other objects depicting cats.

This Japanese hanging scroll painting, cat licking paw, dates from 1789-1792.

Cat and rat Shinto procession is a Japanese painting from 1879 attributed to artist Kawanabe Kyosai. It depicts a mock Shinto procession, with a cat borne on a gourd by rats, accompanied by another cat being ridden by rats.

Black cat stretching is a Japanese woodblock print made around 1935 by Takahashi Hiroaki.

Cats are the subject of this pair of woodblock prints by Japanese artist Inagaki Tomoo. Stretching cat [left] is from 1963 and combines various stages of a cat’s movement while stretching. Two cats are depicted in the 1970 print Black cat and white cat [right].

A Japanese ivory cat netsuke [above left] shows a cat licking its paw. A netsuke is a small intricately carved toggle traditionally used to fasten a small container to a kimono sash.

This Chinese porcelain crouching cat [above right] is hollow and has no base; traces of soot support the idea that it was used as a night light. Its fur is depicted using rows of short fine black lines, black patches and stripes around its tail. The piece dates from 1690-1722.

This is a detail from Cat watching butterflies, a painted hanging scroll from China dating from 1647-1686. (Click the image for full-size scroll.)

Next: Prints & Drawings

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