As my calendar changed to February, my thoughts, as always, this time of year, turn to Valentine’s Day. To celebrate, I will share images from my collection that best evoke “love” in its various forms. Caticons is, above all, a book about the love of cats as expressed by painters, sculptors, writers, poets, and folk artisans. It’s about relationships between cats and humans, between cats and kittens, between cats and cats, and between cats and other animals. I devote chapters to each type of love, and even include a four-page list of Cat Lovers in the book.
To choose my first “love” offering, I first searched for references to “love.” The word “love” in some form—love, lover, beloved, etc.…—appears on 79 pages of Caticons, almost a third of the book! (I do like to be exact and had to back out of this total page count, a reference to “gLOVEs” and one to writer H. P. LOVEcraft.)
The next task was to define love, so I read through all the Caticons quotes about catly love. Many of the quotes relate to the most admirable attributes of cats—their independence, their graceful movements, their beauty. Others celebrate the almost mystical bond between women and their feline companions. Still others are narrations of improbable relationships between cats and other animals.
For this first post, I decide to choose a work expressing a cat’s love. It had to clearly show a cat choosing an object of its affection—a much rarer work than the ubiquitous young girls doting on their adorable kittens. As writer Ernest Hemingway reminds us:
“A cat has absolute emotional honesty; human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not. Where else can we be as sure of love as when it is given by a cat?”
—Ernest Hemingway (Oak Park, Illinois 1899-1961 Ketchum, Idaho) writer and journalist
So, after leafing through Caticons. Here it is! The painting is attributed to Tommaso Salini, a contemporary and arch-rival of Caravaggio. Surprise, surprise!!! It is a painting of a cat and a boy!! A warm light bathes the faces of the boy and the cat which reaches a paw lovingly toward the boy. The masterful use of chiaroscuro highlights their intimate gaze, detailing their mutual adoration while leaving the less important background in shadows. This wonderfully expressive work truly evokes the love of a cat for its human.