Animals in the ancient world

 

According to P. G. Wodehouse, cats have never completely gotten over the snootiness caused by the fact that in ancient Egypt they were worshipped as gods. Their domestication, however, goes back even further to the Stone Age when a Cypriot grave, estimated to be about 9,500 years old, was discovered with the remains of a cat buried beside a man, suggesting a close bond between human and feline.

 

 Bastet Cat Goddess: Source: Wayfair.comBastet Cat Goddess: Source: Wayfair.com

 

In ancient Egypt, cats were essential to everyday life as they protected the storehouses of grain situated along the banks of the Nile River that were suseceptible to infestations of rats and mice. Although they later fell from grace, for centuries cats were worshipped as deities namely, the Eye of Ra, who by 1500 BC became associated with Bastet, a solar deity with the head of a cat that guarded the pharoah and became a symbol of motherhood and fertility. The sunrise, music, dance, pleasure and birth were all diverse aspects of Bastet's gentle and loving nature. The Greek historian, Herodotus, wrote of great festivals and magnificent temples commemorated in honor of Bastet.

 

 Egyptian Limestone Relief: Source: terrierman.com.blogspot.comEgyptian Limestone Relief: Source: terrierman.com.blogspot.com

 

Tomb painitings and limestone reliefs from the 5th century B.C. reveal the adoration ancient Egyptians had for their dogs, which were often buried ceremoniously with their masters and mummified with great care. To display grief over the loss of a beloved dog,  family members would shave their eyebrows. The Egyptians linked the dog to the jackal god, Anubis, who guided the soul of the deceased to the Hall of Truth where the great god, Osiris, determined its final judgment.

 

 Greek Vase: Source: doglawreporter.blogspot.comGreek Vase: Source: doglawreporter.blogspot.com

 

Dogs accompanied the armies of antiquity into the fray of every battle and the Greeks considered them to be of great intelligence and constant companions and protectors. Plato referred to the dog as a 'lover of learning' and Socrates (according to Plato) believed the dog was a 'true philosopher.'

 

Cave Canem: Source: athenaergane.tumblr.comCave Canem: Source: athenaergane.tumblr.com

 

In ancient Rome the well-known mosaic, Cave Canem (Beware of Dog) reveals dogs as guardians of the home just as they  had been in earlier cultures and still are today. The great Latin poet, Virgil, wrote: "Never, with dogs on guard, need you fear for your stalls a midnight thief. "

Other ancient cultures revered animals  as well, including  Sumeria and India  where animals were often depicted in literature and various art forms.

The modern world

Today, anything goes, as artistic expression serves many prurposes for many people. While pets are cherished in our society, they are not relegated to godly status as they were in the ancient world;  hence, their depictions reflect the vision (and madness) of the inidividual artist. As such, they  can beome incorporated into  landscapes, still-life, portraits and caricatures.

 Portraiture

 

 Mona Lisa Cat: Source: beccarama.comMona Lisa Cat: Source: beccarama.com

 

Some artists find fulfillment in mimicking the world's most famous paintings, styles and subjects. The cat lady above may not be known for her smile, but would Leonardo Da VInci have gotten a kick out of how a modern artist interpreted his timeless masterpiece?One can only guess, but the cat depicted does share the seductive mysticism so apparent in the Mona Lisa albeit not her exquisite countenance.

 

 Royal Animal Portraiture: Source:IBRIDE-nest.co.ukRoyal Animal Portraiture: Source:IBRIDE-nest.co.uk

 

Consider curtseying now to Queen Rabbit, Her  Royal Hghness Duck and His Regal Majesty Crow. Remember  those somber portraits of the kings and queens of England that graced dusty stone castle walls? All the Tudors and Stuarts and every royal house except for maybe Usher was depcited with the regal portraits of kings , princes and queens either in solitay stance or amid a panorama of foxes, hounds, horses and such. Deep, dark colors often rendered gloom and doom despite the obvious trappings of lives of luxury. 

 

Pug Portrait With Tongue: Source: Etsy.comPug Portrait With Tongue: Source: Etsy.com

 

The adorable painting above is proof that animal  portraiture today has no conventional parameters; it can be funny, whimsical, traditional or just plain cute. Consider that painted depictions of humans sticking their tongues out for the entire world to see are rare if they exist at all.

 

Chicken Love: Source:debbiehubs-artblooms.netChicken Love: Source:debbiehubs-artblooms.net

 

Although sentimentality over chickens is a debatable concept, the whimsical pair of chickens in love  is colorful and endearing.

 

Red Cross Monkey With Cigarette: Source: BoingBoing.netRed Cross Monkey With Cigarette: Source: BoingBoing.net

 

Strange artistic depictions

Artistic expression can also have an edge and transport the viewer for a walk on the weird side. Consider the  image above of a monkey bearing a Red Cross hat and smoking a cigarette. The message of this work is somewhat obscure (smokers need the Red Cross?) but the feeling it evokes is more than a little creepy, unless of course, monkeys that smoke are commonplace in your world.

 

Ray and Pluto: Source: Etsy.comRay and Pluto: Source: Etsy.com

 

The super-imposed images  of a ram posing with a pet owl  on an old  photograph with a sepia background  evokes an edgy sentimentalism and a bizarre view into the  ties that sometimes bind. Who they are  and who lay underneath their images remains a mystery, but captured in this moment in time they are, at the very least, an odd couple indeed.

XRay Art: Source: xrayseashellart-giramonda.comXRay Art: Source: xrayseashellart-giramonda.com

 

Using unusual mediums to create artistic details can be illustrated in the image above where penguins are depicted as forms  on an x-ray.

The sky is the limit when it comes to artistic expression where the only limits are those imposed by the artist's own imagination.

 

 

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