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Cat with Kittens

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

The Egyptians associated the female cat’s fertility and motherly care with several divinities. The base of the statuette of Cat with Kittens is inscribed with a request that Bastet grant life, directly linking the cat pictured here with the goddess Bastet. The kittens here and in the Cat on a Lotus Column point to the benevolent aspect of this feline divinity, while her pointed ears emphasize the feline’s attentive vigilance and ability to protect its young.
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
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Cat with Kittens, ca. 664-30 B.C.E. or later. Bronze, wood, 2 3/8 x 3 7/16 x 1 15/16 in. (6.1 x 8.8 x 5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406Ea-b. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE overall, 37.406E_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2013
    "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 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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