Look at How Cats Were Portrayed in Medieval Art

Cats in Medieval Art

Art has changed a great deal over the past centuries. By looking back at different art movements, we can see the evolution of different aesthetics and approaches to painting, sculpture, and other media. But while creative styles have shifted over time, the interest in certain subjects has remained the same for most artists. Case in point: cats have had a storied relationship in art that stretches all the way back to ancient Egypt.

From domestic cats to cheetahs, tigers, and lions—depictions of felines can be found across cultures and time periods. The ancient Egyptians saw cats as sacred animals and incorporated their likeness into relief carvings, papyrus paintings, and tomb decorations. During the Middle Ages, however, the Catholic Church had a less favorable view of cats, due to their association with paganism and witchcraft. As a result, cats were warded off from cities and even tortured.

Despite their bad reputation, cats were still part of Medieval life in Europe—mostly providing pest control for urban centers—and they permeated much of the art created during this period. However, these portrayals aren't known for their accuracy. Instead, paintings of cats in Medieval art are known for their humorously strange appearances, which is perhaps tied to their poor standing in European society in the Middle Ages. These illustrations vary from kitties with human-like faces to cats walking on their hindlegs to lions that don't look very catlike at all.

Scroll down to see these funny depictions of cats in Medieval art.

Cats in Medieval Art


Depictions of Domestic Cats


Paintings of Lions


Watch this video to learn more about the tradition of cats in Medieval art:

h/t: [Open Culture]

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
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