So, I originally was just going to comment on the fantastic post about dog portraits, but then I ended up going down this rabbit hole about Victorians and their cats and this blog post happened.
Reading through this post and the two other comments, I instantly thought about the counterpart to this post. What about the cats? I can’t think of any portraits that include say, a lady and her cat. However, there was the one picture of the small child and her cat that Professor Martin showed us in class a while back (I can never remember it’s title or the photographer…). Anyways. I know culturally cats can be interpreted in many different ways, however in western culture cats were traditionally viewed as evil, demonic, and witches familiars.
They were essentially hunted down all through the middle ages and into the 19th century. Think America and Salem witch trials, but with cats. Also, there’s a fun theory that if cats hadn’t been eradicated like they were, the plague that wiped out a lot of Europe might not have been quite so bad because rodents wouldn’t have been able to transmit the disease. Again, only a theory.
Anyways, as a fan of cats, I found this kind of awful. However! Good news, cats made a comeback in the Victorian era, thanks to Queen Victoria herself. There was some really cool archeological stuff happening in Egypt at the time, that had a lot to do about cats. Egyptians really loved cats. Anyways, Queen Vic, was super interested in cats and actually adopted two Blue Persian. The cats lived the high life and were actually treated as members of the court. Newspapers got a hold of this information and suddenly people started getting interested in cats too. These trendy house pets got a ton of popularity in the America’s too, as they were featured in Godey’s Ladies Book. Godey’s stated that cats were not solely for older women or monarchs and that anyone should feel comfortable in embracing the “love and virtue” of the cat.
Some more fun facts about Victorian cats (unintentional rhyme).
Charles Dickens was basically a crazy cat lady and played favorites with his cats. Apparently his favorite was named “The Masters Cat” (real original, Dickens) and this cat was allowed to blow out the candles every night. I’m confused on how a cat blows out candles, but it makes for an interesting story.
The first cat show was held in the Crystal Palace in London in 1871. This sparked a whole snowball of cat shows and nonsense throughout Europe.
Lewis Carroll created probably the most iconic cat in literature, with the Cheshire Cat.
So, in short, the Victorian era basically reclaimed cats as house pets and I can thank Queen Victoria for my three cats who are presently helping me write one last blog post.
-Sarah, Pumpkin, Jaspar, and Baxter