A new look at the Gayer-Anderson Cat
Neal Spencer takes a closer-than-usual look at one of the British Museum’s most popular exhibits.
the production of a wide array of merchandise based on the famous cat, from posters to toy figurines and even full-size cast-bronze replicas.. The Gayer-Anderson Cat is now emblematic of the Museum in other ways too. Research, conservation and scientific analyses are constantly occurring behind the scenes, on all areas of the Museum’s collections. Even extremely well-known and much-photographed pieces such as the Cat can thus yield surprises, as happened during two recent trips to the science laboratories at the British Museum. At the same time, the first detailed photographs of the Cat were taken.
Firstly, a few words about the Cat itself, a figurine bequeathed to the museum by Major ‘John’ Gayer-Anderson, an avid collector of ancient Egyptian artefacts. This bronze statue stands thirty-nine centimetres tall, depicting the cat in the pose typical in Egyptian sculpture: seated on its hind legs, tail drawn up by its right side and looking straight ahead.
Amongst the many iconic objects from pharaonic Egypt displayed at the British Museum, the Gayer-Anderson Cat continues to fascinate many visitors. Some are impressed by the abilities of the ancient metalworkers to produce a realistic, almost lifesize figurine of a cat. Others see it as representative of the other-worldliness of Egyptian religion, with gods depicted in the form of animals and millions of creatures bred to be culled for mummification. Finally, it cannot be denied that the object also attracts the many cat-lovers who visit the museum. In itself, this supports
ANCIENTEGYPTDecember 2007/January 2008