While it doesn’t have quite the mass appeal of the Walker Art Center’s Internet Cat Video Film Festival, the Brooklyn Museum will tap into the endless popularity of cats this summer with the historical exhibition “Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt,” slated to open in late July. The show will survey the significance of domestic cats, lions, and felines of all stripes in mythological and royal rituals and artifacts, and in everyday life in ancient Egypt.
Slated to run for nearly a year and half (from July 24, 2012, through December 2014), the show is being curated by the Brooklyn Museum’s associate curator of Egyptian art, Yekaterina Barbash. It will feature some 30 objects from the museum’s permanent collection, like a gilded sculpture of a lion-headed goddess from between 770-412 BCE that has never been on public view before since it entered the museum’s holdings in 1937. Other fine art felines on view will include a bronze sphinx sculpture of King Sheshenq from between 945-718 BCE, and an adorable-sounding cast bronze sculpture of a mother cat with four kittens nursing from ca. 666-30 BCE.
Feline symbolism is prevalent throughout ancient Egyptian mythology and artifacts, from the lion- and cat-headed goddesses Sakhmet and Bastet, who symbolize cats’ famously dual personalities — alternately affectionate and aggressive — to the lion gods Bes and Tutu, statues of whom were widely worshiped in the belief that they would bring fertility, health, and good fortune. We have a hunch that an exhibition devoted to ancient cats will do wonders for the Brooklyn Museum’s fortunes.
— Benjamin Sutton
(Image: Detail of “Figure of a Cat,” 305 B.C.E.-1st century C.E. Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund. Courtesy Brooklyn Museum.)