Leonardo da Vinci was crap at drawing cats

This is Leonardo da Vinci’s (15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519) Study of the Madonna and Child with a Cat, 1478. It is nice that he has a domestic cat in the picture. However, in every drawing of cats by the master, he has botched it. He simply could not get it right. And I think the reason is that in those days animals were even more subservient to the master race: the human, than today. As a consequence, artists’ vision of cats was coloured by human faces. So, the cats had a tinge of human in their faces which destroyed the possibility of achieving a decent likeness.

Study of the Madonna and Child with a Cat, 1478 showing Leonardo da Vinci's poor attempt at drawing a domestic cat
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Study of the Madonna and Child with a Cat, 1478 showing Leonardo da Vinci’s poor attempt at drawing a domestic cat. Image in the public domain in my view. Wrong? Tell me please.

The cat looks a bit miserable as well as she/he is cloyingly grasped by the child who has no idea how to hold a domestic cat. The cat is saying ‘I want to get out of here!’. The mother looks pleased. Perhaps one problem was that the cat did not stay still long enough for Leonardo to fix the image of the cat in his head. He used his imagination and in doing so anthropomorphized the animal, transmogrifying it into a cat-human.

The one below is even worse. The animal looks like a ferret or a modern Siamese! Only they weren’t around in the 15th century! No cat breed was. There were none at that time. They were all moggies.

Leonardo's Virgin and Child with Cat

Leonardo’s Virgin and Child with Cat

And these aren’t good either.

Leonardo cat drawing

Leonardo cat drawing. Image in public domain.

Linked post: Leonardo da Vinci Couldn’t Draw Cats


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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