Sotheby's Is Auctioning Off What Might Be the World's Largest Cat Painting


Like art, love cats, and have $200,000 to $300,000 lying around? On November 3, as part of its 19th Century European Art sale, Sotheby’s is selling what some art aficionados say might be the world’s largest feline painting—a 6-by-8.5-foot oil portrait of 42 life-size Angoras and Persians pawing, prancing, and playing around in a palatial boudoir.

Dating back to the late 19th century, the work was originally owned by a San Francisco philanthropist and art collector named Kate Birdsall Johnson. She loved cats, and filled her Gothic Victorian mansion near Sonoma with luxuriously furred felines. By some accounts, Johnson owned more than 350 kitties; others say she owned under 50. In any case, the wealthy woman loved her animal companions so much that she commissioned Austrian immigrant Carl Kahler to paint them in 1891.

The timeline is sketchy, but according to Sotheby's, it took Kahler years to complete the painting, which was apparently titled My Wife’s Lovers after a nickname given to the feline hoard by Johnson’s husband. The oil portrait, which was sold after Johnson's December 1893 death, survived the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco and was showcased in a Madison Square Garden cat show. In 1949, Cat Magazine reportedly called it “the world’s greatest painting of cats.”

In 2002, the painting was up for sale at Boston's Skinner Auctioneers during the country’s first all-cat art auction. However, it didn’t meet its asking price of between $450,000 and $750,000, and the auction house considered lending the work to a museum for public viewing.

If you’re interested in becoming its lucky owner, or simply appreciate quality art and equally quality cat breeds, check out Sotheby’s online listing or watch the video above.


All images courtesy of YouTube.