Opinion

A Catastrophe: Feline Slashes 17th-Century Work of Art

Antique painting specialist Dr. Bendor Grosvenor was repairing a painting by John Michael Wright, when his cat attacked, leaving him with additional repairs costing as much as the painting itself.

A painting by reportedly of Philip, 7th Earl of Pembroke … and his dog (image via Wikimedia)

It’s a centuries-old debate and one sure to spark controversy, whether your venue is the holiday dinner table, a first Tinder date, or an international arts publication: dogs or cats? Of course, it’s no use arguing with certain people, because they continue to stand behind their flawed affiliation to cats, even when they do something like destroying a historical portrait painted by their favorite artist. Haha! Those little rascals!

The rascal in question is named Padme, the painting is a work by 17th-century portrait artist John Michael Wright, and the insane cat-person is Dr. Bendor Grosvenor, a 41-year-old antique painting specialist who has appeared in five seasons of the BBC show Fake or Fortune, which attempts to unravel the provenance of lost or notable artworks. As reported by The Telegraph, Grosvenor purchased the painting by Wright, one of his favorite artists, motivated in part by the exceptional quality and preservation of the work. In addition to the purchase price of £5,250 (~$6,700), Grosvenor told the Telegraph that he “probably spent the same again cleaning and reframing it.”

When cold-into-hot weather caused the stretcher to warp slightly, creating two small tears in the surface of the painting, Grosvenor did what any art historian would do: he covered the front of the painting with facing paper and brushed on a warm gelatin-and-water solution to stabilize it for travel to London to be relined. That’s when Padme seized the moment to seek revenge for Grosvenor’s horrible transgression of paying several minutes of attention to something other than his cat.

“And as I stood back to admire my handiwork, up jumped our cat, landing forcefully in the centre of the painting with a crunch,” reported Grosvenor, to The Telegraph. “Disaster.”

After landing in the center of the painting, Padme raked its claws down the torso of the figure, creating a large hole, the repair of which is estimated at approximately equal to the original purchase cost. For the record, Dr. Grosvenor, new cats hardly cost any money at all — you can often find people giving them away for free, because they are untrainable nightmare creatures. Grosvenor is quoted as saying Padme is “not a fan of John Michael Wright, and regrets nothing.”

“Archduke Leopold’s Gallery in Brussels” (c. 1650) by David Teniers The Younger. Not pictured: ANY CATS.

If this debate were open to logical discourse, I would mention that history is firmly on my side, both in the sense that cats have long been suspected as dangerous creatures in league with Satan, and from an art historical perspective. Witness this c. 1650 painting by David Teniers the Younger of the Archduke Leopold’s Gallery in Brussels, a salon for which the Archduke commissioned John Michael Wright to travel to London and acquire specimens. Clearly pictured in the foreground are two adorable dogs, happy to wrestle with a stick rather than plot to destroy the hall full of priceless artworks behind them. What good boys!!

But, again, you cannot argue with cat people, because of brain parasites or perhaps low self-worth issues that cause them to become emotionally attached to abusive creatures. It’s best to meet people where they are, so I’ll attempt a little matchmaking instead. I don’t know Dr. Grosvenor’s relationship status, but if he happens to be single, I think I know someone who is just his type!

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