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An odd nineteenth century (or 1504) cat …

2019 April 13

A cat’s head from Durer’s Adam & Eve engraved by Arthur Burgess

Recently I noted the presence of several animals – including cats – in London exhibitions and wondered about the curators’ choices .

I was not over impressed by a recent visit to a Ruskin bi-centennial exhibition, The Power of Seeing, at Two Temple Place on the Thames Embankment. Needless to say no comment was made on John Ruskin’s agreement to offer his name to the working class adult student College that would develop in Walton Street Oxford shortly after his death. (Ruskin college is no longer in that Oxford locality, next to Worcester College, being destroyed just a few years ago in this C21st.)

The exhibition displays images of birds including parrots, cockatoos,duck and an interesting peacock head by J M.W.Turner.But of particular interest was a nineteenth century head of a cat engraved by Arthur Burgess , in brush and ink over charcoal on “wove paper” from the Ashmolean museum in Oxford. Burgess was a wood engraver who asked Ruskin for illustration work. The enlarged drawing is from Durer’s Adam and Eve painting dating from 1504 including cat, a rat, hare or rabbit ,cow, goat, bird – and snake.

I have now dipped into my Durer book for 10/- given to me by a friend in December 1970 while I was studying Medieval Latin at the University of York. The book recalls the Adam and Eve images from Vienna and Pierpont Morgan library in New York . I have no memory of seeing the cat from that particular time but am interested in the engraving of Burgess now displayed. Clearly it was of interest in the nineteenth century but now also seems popular in a small new exhibition .

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