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Cat with Kittens

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

Although precious few Egyptian works of art, including individual figures or their faces, are perfectly symmetrical, three-dimensional groupings of figures are seldom as asymmetrical as this composition. The cat is the goddess Bastet, who could also be shown in leonine form. For more on Bastet and other "lioness-cat" goddesses, see the installations in Temples, Tombs, and the Egyptian Universe.

MEDIUM Bronze, wood
  • Reportedly From: Saqqara, Egypt
  • DATES ca. 664-30 B.C.E. or later
    DYNASTY Dynasty 26 or later
    PERIOD Late Period to Ptolemaic Period
    DIMENSIONS 2 3/8 x 3 7/16 x 1 15/16 in. (6.1 x 8.8 x 5 cm) Base: 1 x 3 3/16 x 4 1/16 in. (2.6 x 8.1 x 10.3 cm)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Bronze group of a mother cat with four kittens on a bronze base (A) set into a wooden base (B). The cat reclines upon her left side with her legs outstretched. Her left fore and hind legs lie forward while her right fore and hind legs are drawn back. Her tail is draped over her right hind leg. Her head is upright perhaps tilted back slightly as one of the kittens, set between her forelegs, playfully climbs toward her neck. The next three kittens are being nursed by the mother cat. Two are between her fore and hind legs, the last is between the cat's tail and left foreleg. Mother cat wears a necklace which is indicated by an incised line running around her neck. A pendant? Perhaps a wadjet(?) is incised in the front of the necklace. The five felines are upon a semi-circular base with straight front and curved back. A pair of tangs below the bronze base fit into the original wooden base, also semi-circular. The wooden base was originally painted black. On the front of the bronze base toward the right side (below the cat's left paw) is an inscription "Bastet, given life". Condition: Very good. Surface of bronze is dark with few lighter patches. Very few surface scratches including one above the Mother Cat's right eye. Forepart of bronze base with dent and inscription somewhat worn though legible. Wooden base remarkably well preserved though somewhat scratched and surface irregular. Considerable amount of black paint missing.
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