In this paper, I will be analyzing the Egyptian sculpture Seated Cat, created from approximately 712 to 332 BCE during the Egyptian Late Period, and explaining how its characteristics reflect the styles and artistic canon of the given period.
First, the statue is bronze, a somewhat common material for statues during the time period. The statue looks to be a bit under a foot high, perhaps somewhere from 9 to 10 inches – about the size of a young/junior-sized cat. The bronze has discolored to a dark greenish-brown color, with some speckling and blotches of different values. It is still, however, relatively polished and shiny; though you cannot necessarily make out any clear reflections off of the surface, it does reflect light and have a shiny appearance, like that of a highly polished stone rather than metal.
The cat sits up in a straight, alert fashion, its ears vertical and back smoothly arched, with its hind legs close to the sides of its body and its two front legs long, straight, and lean. Its thin, long tail wraps around its side and feet, hugging its body and wrapping slightly around the front paw before tapering and ending.
The style of the statue is primarily naturalistic: it is not so detailed and anatomically correct that it would be considered realistic, but it is not so overly simplified or abstract that it is not quickly identifiable as a cat. An example of a more realistic aspect of the cat is its face; the eyes are large, like a real cat’s, and the cheeks and nose are proportioned in way that could depict a real cat. The cheekbones are quite sharply defined, but this isn’t completely impractical for a feline. Less lifelike are the cat’s elongated front legs and extremely erect pose – though it is plausible for a cat to sit up that straight and alertly, it is an unlikely and uncomfortable pose, and the almost perfect symmetry of the position is another unrealistic aspect. In this regard, it shares a feature with the Egyptian canon for the representation of humans – the upright, uncomfortable, severely erect pose and the long, slender limbs.
There is also a circular hole in the outer side of the left ear, and the nearly perfect roundness indicates that the hole was made intentionally rather than being a result of damage, perhaps to hold something. Damage can be found, however, on the cat’s upper back/shoulders and on its neck towards its left side; here, the bronze is chipped or weathered away, leaving a rough texture that is different than the smooth texture of the rest of the cat. But otherwise, the cat seems to have remained largely undamaged.
The pose conveys a sense of alertness, but the gentle sloping curves and lack of severely sharp angles, combined with the elongated legs and body, convey a sense of grace and majesty, which are tones often portrayed in Egyptian art, whether the art is depicting humans or animals.
Though it cannot be seen from looking at the cat from the outside, the inside is described as hollow according to the didactic text next to the statue, likely because the person commissioning the piece wanted to use the inside for storage, or perhaps just so the statue wouldn’t be as heavy or use as much material.
Through the formal analysis of Seated Cat, it is apparent how the statue reflects the artistic values and canons of the Late Period of the Egyptian culture.