Whiskered faces peer from beneath beribboned bonnets; furry tails hang over arms like parasols or stretch upwards to brush against a row of medals; soft, fat paws grapple with flowers, hats and pieces of fruit. There are damsels in distress, Old Testament prophets, even the odd tortured artist, post-ear slicing. From the Middle Ages to the Impressionists, this is the wonderfully charming world of Susan Herbert.
In this second helping of cats in art, felines take over yet more of the world’s best-loved masterpieces. They crowd into the pages of the 15th-century Très Riches Heures, zoom through the air as cherubic blindfolded Cupids in Renaissance masterworks and pose stiffly in royal portraits, before loosening things up in the 19th century as artists take paint and palette out into the countryside.
These aren’t just slavish reproductions of well-known works of art, however, with the characters replaced by cats. In Herbert’s hands, the cats are the characters, stepping into the paintings to assume the role of the Virgin Mary, the King of France or God himself, with more than one pair of pointy ears offering structural support to a crown or garland of flowers – often above that look of grumpy resignation so familiar to cat-parents everywhere.