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Cat Mummy in Cartonnage

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

This large cat mummy was buried much like a human in a cartonnage (a painted plaster coffin). The inscription calls the cat “the Osiris Pa-miu,” using the same title a human would receive as it merges with the god after its death. The mummy itself is wrapped in an elaborate diamond-shaped pattern, as can be seen in the CT scan.

This cat’s unusual size suggests it is either a wild desert cat (Felis chaus) or perhaps a mix of wild cat and domestic breeds.
MEDIUM Cartonnage, animal remains (Felis sylvestris, Felis libyca, or Felis chaus), linen, pigment
  • Place Made: Egypt
  • DATES ca. 760–390 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY Dynasty 25 to Dynasty 28
    PERIOD Third Intermediate Period to Late Period
    DIMENSIONS 9 1/2 x 6 x 35 in. (24.1 x 15.2 x 88.9 cm)  (show scale)
    ACCESSION NUMBER 37.1991Ea-c
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Mummified cat (c), the body and face covered with painted cartonnage (a-top; b-bottom), with a column of inscription "words spoken by the Osiris, the cat nfrHr. May he give gladness (?)..." Probably of the species Felis chaus. The cat mummy is wrapped overall with a final cross lashing of thin strips of linen. The cat has an elaborate linen cartonnage, which consists of at least 8 layers of linen. The cartonnage is gesso covered and painted in red, blue, black and yellow. The cartonnage depicts a cat face in profile with a red body. The cat is wearing a blue and white striped headdress with a blue, red and white striped collar. On the red body are painted three columns of vertical hieroglyphs. The outer two columns are grey in color and the central row is white. The hieroglyphs are simple line drawings in black. There are two rectangular patches with painted figures in profile. Condition: The cartonnage casing surrounding the mummy and the mummy are in poor condition. Both are in two parts, with the cat head having been decapitated. The cartonnage is also in two halves running the vertical length - front and back. The cartonnage is crushed, especially at the top and bottom corners. The paint is flaking overall and there are numerous losses, especially in areas of deformation of the substrate. There is some loss to the linen along the edges and sides of the cartonnage, especially at the bottom edge. There is evidence of a repair at the neck, of both the mummy and the cartonnage.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Cat Mummy in Cartonnage, ca. 760–390 B.C.E. Cartonnage, animal remains (Felis sylvestris, Felis libyca, or Felis chaus), linen, pigment, 9 1/2 x 6 x 35 in. (24.1 x 15.2 x 88.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1991Ea-c. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum (Gavin Ashworth,er), 37.1991Ea_37.1991Eb-c_Gavin_Ashworth_photograph.jpg)
    IMAGE component, 37.1991Ea_37.1991Eb-c_Gavin_Ashworth_photograph.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph (Gavin Ashworth, photographer), 2012
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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