Collections: Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art: Cat and Mouse

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    37.51E_Gavin_Ashworth_photograph.jpg CUR.37.51E_wwg8.jpg CUR.37.51E.jpg 37.51E_SL1.jpg 37.51E_NegD_glass_bw_SL4.jpg

    Cat and Mouse

    An ostracon is a smooth flake of stone (or, less often, pottery) that the Egyptians used instead of expensive papyrus for drawing or writing. This example of an "animal fable" vignette shows a plump, middle-aged mouse seated on an elaborate stool and holding a drinking bowl, a flower (or a fish skeleton?), and a piece of cloth. Before him stands his servant, a scrawny cat, who fans him while presenting a trussed fowl and a bolt of cloth. A number of such scenes have survived showing animals acting as humans but with their natural roles reversed. They may have illustrated popular fables, or they may have been intended as satires on upper-class life in the Ramesside Period, when almost all were made.

    • Medium: Limestone, pigment
    • Possible Place Made: Thebes, Egypt
    • Dates: ca. 1295-1075 B.C.E.
    • Dynasty: XIX Dynasty to XX Dynasty
    • Period: New Kingdom
    • Dimensions: 3 1/2 x 6 13/16 x 7/16 in. (8.9 x 17.3 x 1.1 cm)  (show scale)
    • Collections:Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
    • Museum Location: This item is on view in Egypt Reborn: Art for Eternity, Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
    • Exhibitions:
    • Accession Number: 37.51E
    • Credit Line: Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    • Rights Statement: Creative Commons-BY
    • Caption: Cat and Mouse, ca. 1295-1075 B.C.E. Limestone, pigment, 3 1/2 x 6 13/16 x 7/16 in. (8.9 x 17.3 x 1.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.51E. Creative Commons-BY
    • Image: overall, 37.51E_Gavin_Ashworth_photograph.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph (Gavin Ashworth, photographer), 2012
    • Catalogue Description: Limestone ostracon with ink drawing of a standing tabby cat on the left offering a feather fan and plucked goose to a seated female mouse (right). The mouse has drooping breasts, wears a long skirt and has a flower on her forehead. She holds a dish in her right hand, and holds a flower? and cloth (often held by pharaohs) in her left hand. The cat also holds a similar cloth. The mouse is seated on a folding stool with animal legs and covered with an animal hide with the tail hanging over the edge of the stool. It is similar to numerous folding stools in XVIII Dynasty painting. Traces of white paint are on the body of the mouse. It is possibly a caricature or illustration to a current fable or perhaps a satire of the royal family. Condition: Good, several small chips on surface of the piece.
    • Record Completeness: Best (88%)
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    Recent Comments
    08:19 06/24/2011
    Dear Friend
    life’s here is in chaos
    and what’s up is down
    and sideways is in reverse
    The cat serves the fattened mouse
    that sits comfy like a lord on its seat
    drinking wine and wiping its mouth with rich cloth
    and eating the fish while the cat starves
    It’s all in reverse, it’s all become so perverse:
    the cat is summoned as a servant
    before the mouse
    and the cat must honor the rodent
    and be subservient to the rodent
    that now instead of fleeing
    sits upon a fine seat;
    and the cat –
    ah, so upsy-downsy are things –
    the cat must call the mouse “Lord and Master”
    and offer tribute and bow and kneel
    Dear Friend -
    it’s a mad, mad world we are in:
    everything is turned topsy-turvy;
    the natural order is disorder
    and disorder is organization;
    and days are nights and nights become days
    while sense is illogic and nonsense is reason

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