Categories: Cats in Art

Mediaeval cat paintings: ugly anthropomorphized depictions

I’ve seen this before. It appears that painters in mediaeval times had a compulsion to depict both domestic and wild cats with human faces. Not only that, the faces are ugly. Almost every painting looks like a cat cartoon and the cat is anthropomorphised.

I’m not sure whether it was deliberate to depict cats in a cartoonish manner or whether painters at this time lacked the skill to create an accurate rendition of the domestic cat.

Although, I have seen anthropomorphized wild cat depictions which are meant to be accurate so my impression is that painters of his era were fixated on human anatomy and unable to depict animal anatomy without putting some human characteristics within the painting. This is surprising because there are many good paintings of humans.

The last painting in this list is of a cat and her owner it seems. Both are painted fairly accurately indicating that the other cat paintings were meant to be ugly, anthropomorphized cat monsters.

Medieval painting showing cat and owner in a pleasant manner. Nothing gruesome about this so medieval painters could do a nice job of painting cats.

Medieval times was an era when the domestic cat was denigrated. There was the black cats association with witchcraft for example. There must have been many cat lovers in that era but also a brutish attitude towards animals in general which spilled over to domestic cats and their depictions in paintings.

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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.

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