Artwork of the month: “The Cats Paw”

15March 2007

The tale of the “Cats Paw” is dark and reveals a portion of human nature.

This painting is a depiction of a fable titled “The Monkey and the Cat,” by Jean de La Fontaine.  The monkey cons the cat to grab chestnuts from the hot coals, promising him a share.  As the cat takes them from the fire one at a time, burning his paw each time, the monkey eats them.  They are interrupted and the cat gets nothing but a burned paw.  One animal uses another to get what it needs…typical of the animal kingdom.  

As a child, I loved this painting, the story that it told, and the scandal the story reveals.  This has been one of my true favorite paintings at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts since I was a child visiting on field trips.

Sir Edwin Henry Landseer
British, 1802-1873
“The Cats Paw”
1824, oil on canvas.

“If people only knew as much about painting as I do, they would never buy my pictures.”
-Sir Edwin Henry Landseer.