If you’re a lover of our feline friend, the cat, then you’ll like De Katten Kabinet (The Cat Cabinet), Amsterdam. It’s unique in the fact that it’s the only museum in the world with a permanent collection of art forms about the cat. It portrays cats in art and culture from 1860 to the present time.
I like our furry friends and I had planned to go to De Katten Kabinet for a long while. I never got around to it though, until last Wednesday. The museum was founded in 1990 by a wealthy Dutchman called Bob Meijer. He wanted to preserve the memory of his ginger cat called John Piermont Morgan (J P Morgan), who died at the good old age of seventeen and so dedicated this museum to him.
The 17th century building on the Herengracht, was bought by the present owner in 1985 and has been totally renovated. There are five rooms in the exhibition, with a mixture of photographs, posters, sculptures and art about cats. As I went in the door to the foyer, there was a black and white striped tabby cat asleep on a couch and another cat of the same colour, ambled out into the foyer through a doorway behind reception. It sat beside the radiator and surveyed the scene. It’s nice to see cats wandering around the place too and not just in photos and posters on the walls.
The exhibition is on the first floor of the building. As you get to the top of stairs, to the left is a little passageway, with two walls covered in posters with cats. A lot of the posters had that sort of Parisian, Art Deco look to them. Some of them were created by Theophile Steinlen, who grew up in Switzerland but lived in Paris and is known as one of the leaders in French poster design. One of his posters that I liked is called “Tournée du Chat Noir avec Rodolphe Salis, ” with a picture of a big black cat with evil looking, yellow eyes and whiskers spread out in all directions. There are also other works of art throughout the museum, such as paintings, sculptures, photographs and drawings, by artists like Picasso, Rembrandt, Karel Appel, Leonor Fini and Toulouse L’Autrec.
Along with Theophile Steinlen’s posters, I quite liked Ed van der Elsken’s collection of photographs and a sculpture of a cat, in a hunting position, bent over a step, eyes wide, with a dead mouse in its right claw. There is also a little sanctuary dedicated to J P Morgan – Bob Meijer’s cat. Every five years Morgan received a present and nearly all of his presents are here, apart from a bronze sculpture which was made of him for his tenth birthday, but unfortunately was stolen before the museum opened.
The highlight of the whole experience for me though, was when I got to the bottom of the stairs, near the foyer. There was a black and white striped tabby cat sitting there. I sat down on the second step, put my hand out to sort of introduce myself to the cat and it came over. I started petting it and within two seconds it was up on my lap. It rubbed its head against the sleeve of my woollen jacket several times, dug its head in under my arm, turned around on my lap to get comfortable and promptly laid its head on my left arm. I could feel the vibrations of it’s purring through my jacket. Aw! My heart just melted. I’ve never seen such a friendly cat – ever. A lot of cats can be very distant and aloof but this one came straight up to me and I think it would have been happy to sit with its head on my arm for hours. I don’t have a partner and it was great to get such affection from a cat. I miss that affection, I must admit.
I sat on the step for about fifteen minutes and wish I had asked someone to take a photo but I didn’t. I had to go, so I gently lifted the cat off my lap, with its claws still clinging to my left leg and put it down on the ground. Ten minutes later, after I came out of the shop, I saw that two girls who had been in the museum, were taking photos of the cat sitting on the girl’s lap. Obviously it’s a really sociable cat.
The museum is open Monday to Friday, 10.00 to 16.00 and on Saturday and Sunday, 12.00 to 17.00. The entrance ticket costs 6 Euros for adults, 3 Euros for children and 4 Euros per person for groups of more than ten people. Herengracht 497, Amsterdam. www.kattenkabinet.nl