A cat feeding one kitten and playing with another is shown lying on a sarcophagus designed to store the mummified remains of cats. Cats were commonly portrayed in Egyptian art, especially during the Saite period, which was characterised by numerous images of animals in general.
Cats were devoted to the cult of Bastet, the goddess of fertility and protector of the home, and they usually had their ears pierced so that gold earrings could be worn. The goddess Bastet, who had a cat’s head, was one of the multiple deities in Egypt’s polytheist religion and had her own temple in Bubastis, in the Nile delta.
The Gulbenkian Museum has two other statues of sitting cats, whose interiors were used to keep the animals’ ashes.
Durighello Collection. Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian, through Graat & Madoulé, at the sale of the Durighello Collection, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1924.
H. 25.5 cm; W. 55.3 cm
Maria Helena Assam, Arte Egípcia. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, 1991, pp. 86–7.
Luís Manuel de Araújo, Egyptian Art. Calouste Gulbenkian Collection. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, 2006, pp. 128–9, cat. 31.
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