In early modern Europe, cats were kept primarily as ‘food guardians’ to prevent vermin from eating provisions. Some earned their keep as mousers, such as this tiny feline whose mouse-catching abilities have been immortalised in soft-paste porcelain: with one paw firmly placed on a mouse-hole (into which a lucky mouse escapes), she traps a less fortunate one in the other. Other cats, like the contented one in Valentino’s kitchen scene (displayed nearby), appear to have preferred living off kitchen scraps fed to them by indulgent servants.
Bow Porcelain Manufactory, England, c.1753–8
Soft-paste porcelain, painted overglaze in enamels
Dr J.W.L. Glaisher Bequest (C.3055-1928)