Once a week we take a painting, or piece of sculpture, that interests us, tell you a bit about it and hope it sparks something with you and your families. We would love to hear your recommendations.
In the five weeks leading up to museums and galleries opening their doors on 17th May, we have been picking some of the pieces of art that we are most excited about seeing again. This week's is an old favourite of Anya's. Since she was a child she has loved to visit the Egyptian cat at the British Museum. The Gayer-Anderson cat might be ancient but it sits with the elegant, proud position of every cat from any century.
The Gayer-Anderson Cat
The British Museum, 664-322 BC
The Gayer-Anderson Cat is an ancient Egyptian bronze statue of a cat dating from the late period (664-322BC). It is the known as the Gayer-Anderson cat after Major Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson who, along with his wife Mary Stout Shaw, donated it to his the British Museum. There is a copy of the cat in the Gayer-Anderson Museum in Cairo.
In ancient Egypt cats were highly valued as pets but also acquired religious significance. This cat is a representation of the female cat deity Bastet (the mother goddess). The cat wears jewellery and a protective amulet – although It is possible that her gold onrnaments (earrings and nose ring) may not have always belonged to her. There is a scarab beetle on her forehead – a popular amulet in ancient Egypt which symbolised the sun and rebirth – and a winged scarab on her chest. A wedjat eye (also known as the 'Eye of Horus' or 'all seeing eye') adorns her chest which symbolised healing and protection.
The cat is 42cm high and was produced by the 'lost wax' technique whereby a model is covered with clay and fired in a kiln until the wax flows out. The hollow mould is then refilled with molten metal.
Visit the cat in Room 4 of the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery in the British Museum. Admission Free.
Anya Waddington 4th May 2021