HomeCat ArtKuniyoshi Utagawa, Four Cats In Different Poses

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Kuniyoshi Utagawa, Four Cats In Different Poses — 2 Comments

  1. I found it interesting that at least a couple of those cats (in the ukiyo-e print) were depicted as having five or even six toes on a single paw! I have no idea whether that’s allowed in the modern Japanese Bobtail breed standard, or whether it’s common among Japanese cats in general, whether registered purebreds or not…

    Also, I think there was too much stylization in the ukiyo-e style for us to be able to draw any definite conclusions, ~200 years later, about what features bobtailed cats in Japan had back then. (Look at some other ukiyo-e prints from the same period, especially ones depicting humans or other animals… there’s a degree of realism, but also a lot of stylization.) It’s even possible that at the time “Four Cats in Different Poses” was created, the favored coat pattern didn’t yet exist — maybe it was originally just an ideal, and cats were selected as pets (and/or intentionally selectively bred) that looked more and more like that ideal, similar to the development of several modern breeds such as the Toyger?

    In any case, Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s art is beautiful and adorable, and clearly shows that, like all good, right-thinking people, he was a cat lover! Wikipedia has good-quality images of a few more of his prints that featured cats.

    • I agree the paintings are stylised but of course they still provide insights about the Japanese Bobtail 200 years ago. At the time there were no formal cat breeds so all cats were moggies technically although they were more purebred than modern purebreds probably.

      The pattern is very similar to the modern American show cat in the picture. Of course there must be, and have been, many Japanese Bobtails that were not tricolor or bicolor. The tricolor just looks the best and makes the best subject matter.

      As to toe numbers. There are five at the front. If he painted 6 perhaps some were polydactyl or he just did not bother to get it accurate. As you say they are stylised. I’ll have a look at Wikipedia. I might do another page on the subject. I find that paintings of cats from hundreds of years ago are interesting from the standpoint of cat history.

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