The tale of the “Cats Paw” is dark and reveals a portion of human nature.
This painting is a depiction of a fable titled “The Monkey and the Cat,” by Jean de La Fontaine. The monkey cons the cat to grab chestnuts from the hot coals, promising him a share. As the cat takes them from the fire one at a time, burning his paw each time, the monkey eats them. They are interrupted and the cat gets nothing but a burned paw. One animal uses another to get what it needs…typical of the animal kingdom.
As a child, I loved this painting, the story that it told, and the scandal the story reveals. This has been one of my true favorite paintings at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts since I was a child visiting on field trips.
Sir Edwin Henry Landseer
“The Cats Paw”
1824, oil on canvas.
“If people only knew as much about painting as I do, they would never buy my pictures.”
-Sir Edwin Henry Landseer.