Divine Cat Comes to Shetland
Shetland Museum and Archives is delighted to welcome the Gayer-Anderson Cat, on loan from the collection of the British Museum as part of the Spotlights Loans.
The Cat is an Egyptian bronze statue, crafted around 600BC and gifted to the British Museum in 1939 by Robert Greville 'John' Gayer Anderson, a retired British Army Major and collector of ancient art.
Gayer-Anderson was an enthusiastic restorer of ancient metal objects, and recent x-rays carried out by the British Museum and identified repairs which he carried out in the 1930's. Scientific investigations undertaken in 2007 helped to identify that the cat was made from copper alloy with a silver necklace and gold rings. Research has indicated that the gold rings are ancient, but probably not original.
In ancient Egypt wealthy individuals dedicated bronze statues in temples as a way of communicating with the gods. Thousands of such votive statues would accumulate in any one temple. Priests would regularly gather up the statues and bury them in specially prepared pits. This statue, thought to be of the Godess Bastet, would probably have been dedicated in this way, but only a rich pharoah or very wealthy individual would have been able to afford such a large statue with precious metal inlays and jewellery.
The Gayer-Anderson Cat is a particularly popular artefact within the British Museum collection and has only ever been on loan outside the Museum twice before.