The Cat's Paw, c. 1824

In Jean de La Fontaine's seventeenth-century fable, which this painting illustrates, a cunning monkey persuades a cat to retrieve roasting chestnuts from a fire. The term "cat's paw," meaning a person unwittingly duped by another, derives from this tale. Numerous engraved and painted precedents for the brutality of Landseer's interpretation existed in the work of seventeenth-century Dutch and British illustrators of La Fontaine. The fabulist's symbolic use of animals to describe the tribulations of human existence became popular among nineteenth-century romantic painters and satirists.

Details
Title
The Cat's Paw
Artist Life
1802–1873
Role
Artist
Accession Number
82.47
Curator Approved

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