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Cat and Mouse

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

On View: 19th Dynasty to Roman Period, Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Gallery, 3rd Floor
Animals imitating human behavior were well-known in Egyptian art. Yet their meaning is uncertain.

Here, a feline funerary priest approaches a mouse with offerings. The mouse wears a lotus flower on its head, sits on a chair, sniffs a flower, and holds out a cup to be filled. The cat, standing on his hind legs, fans the mouse and offers a roasted duck and a piece of linen.

People performing these actions in Egyptian art are usually at a banquet. A cat serving a mouse might represent a humorous satire or illustrate a now-lost story.
MEDIUM Limestone, ink
  • 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)
    ACCESSION NUMBER 37.51E
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Cat and Mouse, ca. 1295-1075 B.C.E. Limestone, ink, 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 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum (Gavin Ashworth,er), 37.51E_Gavin_Ashworth_photograph.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 37.51E_Gavin_Ashworth_photograph.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph (Gavin Ashworth, photographer), 2012
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    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.
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