Last summer we met the State Hermitage Museum’s legions of feline pest control agents — colloquially known as the Hermitage Cats — noting that their labor remains largely unacknowledged, and that their food and veterinary needs are chiefly paid for through employee donations. But now, in recognition of its valiant, vermin-chasing guards, the Hermitage has commissioned the Uzbek artist Eldar Zakirov — whose Deviant Art profile indicates that his username used to be “DarthEldarious” — to create a series of cat portraits inspired by works from the museum’s collection. The series, titled “Cats of the Hermitage,” will appear in the institution’s publication Hermitage Magazine, the Art Newspaper noted. But thanks to a little sleuthing we managed to find all six paintings, presented here for your purrr-usal. (Above: The Hermitage Court Moor in casual uniform.)
Above: The Hermitage Court Moor Cat.
The Hermitage is just the latest — and one of the most distinguished — art institution to tap into the irrepressible cat art trend, which has made the leap from internet meme to legitimate art form thanks to exhibitions and events at the Walker Art Center, the Metropolitan Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, White Columns, and more.
Above: The Hermitage Court waiter cat.
In keeping with the feline theme, the current issue of Hermitage Museum features a drippy painting of architect Santiago Calatrava on its cover in which he looks like a classic Bond villain, dressed in a white tuxedo and stroking a wide-eyed cat cradled in his arms.
Above: The Hermitage Court Chamber Herald Cat.
Zakirov’s paintings, meanwhile, are equally playful, though far more realistic, sending up the aesthetics of classical portraiture with period costumes, human-like poses, and ornate backdrops.
Above: The Hermitage Court Outrunner Cat.
Particularly impressive is the artist’s rendering of the Hermitage Cats’ whiskers, which arch and loop away from each subjects’ face in a manner reminiscent of a courtesan’s wig. Meanwhile, their historically accurate military uniforms convey the incredible importance of their work at the revered institution.
Above: The Hermitage Court Confectioner Apprentice Cat.
— Benjamin Sutton
(All artworks by Eldar Zakirov, courtesy the artist. Via Facebook.)