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Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt

Dates: February 4, 2017–May 7, 2017

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 eighty 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 and valued for their ability to protect homes and granaries from vermin. But felines were also associated with royalty and closely linked with a number of deities.

On view will be an extraordinary gilded Leonine Goddess (770–412 BCE a lion-headed female crouching on a papyrus-shaped base, that entered the Brooklyn collection in 1937; the statuette was conserved for this installation. The exhibition’s cats and feline divinities range from a large limestone sculpture of a recumbent lion (305–30 BCE), to a diminutive bronze sphinx of King Sheshenq (945–718 BCE), to a small cast-bronze figurine of a cat nursing four kittens (664–30 BCE). Also presented are furniture and luxury items, decorated with feline features, in many media.

Divine Felines is organized by the Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition is presented by the Elaine A. Evans Museum Fund, Aletha and Clayton Brodine Museum Fund, First Tennessee Foundation, Ready for the World, Audrey Duncan, Drs. Wahid and Samia Hanna, Archaeological Institute of America, UT College of Veterinary Medicine, and the Arab American Club of Knoxville.

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