Categories: Cats in Art

Leonardo da Vinci Couldn’t Draw Cats

Leonardo’s Virgin and Child with Cat

“Virgin and Child with Cat”, a drawing, proves Leonardo da Vinci couldn’t draw cats

It is near Christmas and I wondered if a cat was present in the stable when Jesus was born. I read that there is a story about this…ah I remember it. It is fictional and concerns the tabby M mark. How true is the Bible anyway?

When I searched for a picture of Jesus with a cat I came up with three results. Firstly, there is a book available on Amazon called “The Christmas Cat”. It is the story of baby Jesus who was crying as babies do. Mary and Joseph couldn’t stop the crying but a kitten wandered into the stable and calmed Jesus which lead to a loving relationship between the two.

The author is Maryann MacDonald and the inspiration for the idea came from Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing “La Madonna del Gatto” (The Madonna of the Cat).

My research told me that it was, in fact, Frederico Barocci who painted the painting with that title (perhaps there are two paintings with the same title). Here is the painting:

La Madonna del Gatto by Frederico Barocci who could draw cats or it seems that he could!

In the painting there is a Van-type ginger-and-white cat being teased.

I believe that the picture (a drawing) that inspired Maryann was “Leonardo da Vinci, Virgin and Child with Cat”. I am guessing.

This lead me to study the drawing. As described, it shows Mary holding Christ who in turn is holding a cat and the cat is poorly drawn if I am being brutally honest.

It is not that badly drawn (more like a dog/cat) but it is not good and this is not the first time Leonardo has messed up a cat drawing ; ) . I don’t think he used a cat as a model. Artists tended to anthropomorphize cats hundreds of years ago until the 19th century.

His famous drawing entitled, “Study of Cat Movements and Positions” shows rather strange looking domestic animals, in truth.

The cat in the drawing “Leonardo da Vinci, Virgin and Child with Cat” has a long, Oriental Shorthair head. There is something slightly wrong about it. The body is quite rotund and stocky which is not in harmony with the more elongated face.

I couldn’t find out why he drew it. It is interesting because the domestic cat is never mentioned in the bible. In generally, the cat is not mentioned. Although, the lion is referred to, as the Lion of Judah.

This drawing was probably something that Leonardo fancied doing because the cat adds a warmth and friendly, family nuance to the image.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • OMG!
    I think Leonardo painted a rodent, not a cat!
    Barocci may have done slightly better; but, the image is more Chihuahua like than anything resembling a cat.

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