Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cats and Christmas...they go waaay back

"Madonna of the Cat" 1523 by Guilio Romano
(cat beside Mary's foot)
Ever look closely at the markings on a tabby cat's forehead? In nearly every case, you will find a capital letter "M" prominently displayed above their lovely feline eyes. Legend has it, this distinctive marking stands for "Madonna" or "Mary," as in Mary, the Madonna, the mother of Jesus. Here's the story, just in time for Christmas. I guarantee you'll never look at a tabby cat, again, without seeing the "M" and remembering the tale.

"Madonna with the Cat" 15th century, Leonardo Da Vinci
On the night Jesus was born in a Bethlehem stable, Mary-- like most new mothers-- found herself with a fretful baby unable to settle him down to sleep. Among the animals sharing the space was a little tabby cat that, seeing Mary's distress, lept into the manger and snuggled up beside the baby. Purring softly, the cat lulled Jesus to sleep thus earning Mary's maternal and eternal gratitude. To thank the kitty and memorialize such kindness, she placed her mark, an "M," on the cat's forehead. To this day, every tabby cat bears the Madonna's initial.

"Hide and Seek" photo by K L Wood
There is another legend that a mother cat, nestled below the manger in which Jesus was placed, gave birth to a litter of kittens just as Mary, herself, gave birth.

Cats and Christmas. Who knew?

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! And a very Merry Christmas to all!


Photo of Tabby Legend ornament created by K L Wood


Anonymous said...

"The Madonna With the Cat, was first displayed to the public in 1938 as part of a Milanese gallery's exhibition of the work of Leonardo da Vinci. The picture, drawn in oil on wood, was announced to be a newly discovered work by the great master. It had been donated to the gallery by an Italian nobleman who claimed that the work had "been in the family forever."

Art historians had long been aware of Leonardo's pen-and-ink studies for this painting. However, the painting itself had never been seen. Therefore, its discovery was hailed as a great find.
After the exhibition, the painting disappeared from public view. Fifty years later it resurfaced when Cesare Tubino, an artist in Turin, died at the age of ninety-one.

Tubino was known for his reproductions of old paintings. It turned out that The Madonna with the Cat was one of his greatest achievements. He had conspired with a nobleman to present the painting to the Milanese gallery for its debut, then Tubino had taken the work back. For the next fifty years it hung on his bedroom wall where he admired it every day. He left instructions to his family to expose the work as his own creation upon his death."

Kate Louise Wood said...

Very interesting, Anonymous!