I have lived with several Zen masters,
all of them cats.
Cats have been depicted in art for over 5,000 years.
Really old cat. Egypt 600 BC.
Really, really old and really, really famous half-cat.
Egypt 2,555 to 2,532 BC.
Really, really cute cat.
Gold Sam, Andy Warhol. 1954
Marci, my friend and sales rep, told me about a print her beloved late-father gave her when she was young. It showed a little girl with cats, and Marci couldn’t remember the artist, but she thought the print was 19th century. After months of searching, I found it. (Thanks to the San Diego State library and the promisingly entitled book, Cats in Art.)
As a surprise to Marci, I created a new necklace using the piece and sent one to her as a gift. By coincidence (or providence), Marci’s necklace arrived in the mail on her father’s birthday.
STEINLEN and Lait Pur Sterilise de la Vingeanne
Lait Pur Sterilise de la Vingeanne, 1997
Created in 1897 by Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Lait Pur Sterilise de la Vingeanne is an advertising poster for sterilized milk for the Quillot Brothers dairy, located in the French village of Montigny sur Vingeanne . The models for the poster were the artist’s daughter, Collette, and the family’s beloved cats.
Born in Laussane, Switzerland in 1859, Steinlen enjoyed a long and prolific career that made him one of the great poster artists of his time (along with Henri Toulouse Lautrec and Jules Ceret ). Steinlen is perhaps best known for the iconic image he was commissioned to create for Le Chat Noir (The Black Cat), a bustling 19th century Parisian cabaret — part artist salon, part rowdy music hall — located in the city’s bohemian section of Montmarte. Le Chat Noir closed in 1897, much to the disappointment of Pablo Picasso, who looked for it when he came to Paris for the Exposition in 1900.
Le Chat Noir, Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen
dutch TULIP CRISIS
Peter Binoit, Flowers in a Glass Beaker, c. 1620
If you study 17th century Northern European art history, you will notice that tulips are a common motif. Brought from Turkey to Europe in the mid-16th century, tulips quickly became a coveted luxury item and status symbol, and their wild popularity in the Netherlands created what is called Tulip Mania, or the Tulip Crisis, the first recorded speculative economic bubble.
At its manic high in 1636-7, a single tulip bulb commanded the price of more than 10 times the annual wage of a skilled craftsman. ALL of the following items were reportedly exchanged for a SINGLE bulb:
4800 pounds of wheat
9600 pounds of rye
4 fat oxen
8 fat swine
12 fat sheep
120 gallons of wine
1000 gallons of beer
2 tons of butter
1000 pounds of cheese
1 complete bed
1 suit of clothes
1 silver drinking cup **
And I thought the San Diego real estate market was crazed! Just like the San Diego real estate market, the bubble burst:
But, at least San Diegans have land and a house. The poor Dutch investor was left with nothing but tulip bulbs!
Tulips were included in numerous lush floral still lifes, like the Binoit painting (above) used in the Marci necklace. Catalogs of highly detailed tulip images were also created — called Tulip Books — as a type of sales tool. Pages from 17th century Tulip Books are shown below.
All images are opaque watercolor on paper. 17th century.
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California
Full disclosure: I am currently in Austin, Texas for the annual Museum Store Association conference, so without time to visit a library, Wikipedia is my sole research source for this blog post. Ordinarily, I compile my posts from multiple sources, but this time, Wikipedia is it. Wikipedia is a terrific tool, but I know it’s really lame of me to rely so heavily upon it. I’m tired, though, time is limited, and I want to put this baby to bed. (Austin and the conference have been fantastic, by the way.)
That said, if you are at all interested in reading about the financial machinations that created Tulip Mania, you can read all about it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_crisis .
Really, really happy cat.
So Happy, Andy Warhol, 1958
** (According to historical sources, the items exchanged for the single tulip bulb mentioned above equalled 2500 Dutch guilders. Dating back to the 17th century, guilders were the Dutch currency before being replaced by the euro in 2002. According to my research of historic and current currency conversion charts, 2500 Dutch guilders from 1637 equals 35,000 US dollars in 2010.)
Wikipedia only. (Sad yes, but scroll up 3 paragraphs to find out why.)