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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
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, 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)
    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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