From domesticated cats to mythic symbols of divinity, felines played an important role in ancient Egyptian imagery for thousands of years. Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt explores the role of cats, lions, and other feline creatures in Egyptian mythology, kingship, and everyday life through nearly thirty different representations of cats from the Brooklyn Museum’s world-famous Egyptian collection. Likely first domesticated in ancient Egypt, cats were revered for their fertility, associated with royalty and a number of deities, and valued for their ability to protect homes and granaries from vermin.
On public view for the first time is a gilded Leonine Goddess (770–412 B.C.E.)—a lion-headed female crouching on a papyrus-shaped base—that entered the Brooklyn collection in 1937 and was conserved specially for this installation. The exhibition’s cats and feline divinities range from a large limestone sculpture of a recumbent lion (305–30 B.C.E.), to a diminutive bronze sphinx of King Sheshenq (945–718 B.C.E.), to a cast-bronze figurine of a cat nursing four kittens (664–30 B.C.E.). Also included are furniture and luxury items decorated with feline features.
Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt is organized by Yekaterina Barbash, Associate Curator of Egyptian Art, Brooklyn Museum.