Monet's lost cat returned to its home in Giverny
There are many stories about cats returning to their owners over the years. But the cat that belonged to Claude Monet seems to have been the champion in this respect, as it returned to its house nearly a century after the artist’s death. During the life of the famous Impressionist artist, this glazed biscuit pottery cat, made in Japan, spent many years curled up on a pillow in the bright yellow dining room lined with Japanese prints. Then the relic disappeared and was found almost by accident.
Supposedly, the pottery was presented to Claude Monet by a Japanese admirer. American socialite Pauline Howard-Johnston, who visited the artist’s house in Giverny in her twenties, recalled that in 1924 the figure was lying on the couch. "On a pillow, a white cat—sort of unpolished terracotta—sleeping snugly," she said. Later, she saw it in the home of Michel, Monet’s second son, who would be killed in a car crash in 1966.
Recently, art historians have made an amazing discovery in the biography of Michel, who had been married but as it was supposed, having no children. However, apparently, he had an illegitimate daughter Rolande Verneiges, who was given a treasure trove of Monet works and memorabilia by her loving father. Born in around 1914, she died in 2008, and her existence remained unknown, even to Monet specialists, until last autumn.
Left: Claude Monet, Portrait of Michel Monet Wearing a Hat with a Pompom" (1880). The Musée d’Orsay, Paris
It was Adrien Meyer, an expert at Christie’s Impressionist art, who managed to track down Verneiges’s daughter. During a visit to her apartment, he saw works by Monet stored everywhere, with unframed paintings under the beds. Among the memorabilia was the lost cat casually sitting on the piano.
The family decided to sell the newly discovered masterpieces and relics at Christie’s auction in Hong Kong last November. More than three-quarters of the lots were purchased by Asian buyers, and the entire sale as a whole brought 10.9 million US dollars.
The spectacles of Claude Monet, sold at auction in Hong Kong to a collector from Asia for 51 457 dollars-34 times higher than the estimate. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd via the Guardian
Created in the middle of the XIX century, the cat was previously estimated at 25 — 35 000 Hong Kong dollars. However, its final cost exceeded the lower estimate more than twenty times and amounted to 525 000 Hong Kong dollars or 67 000 US dollars. The owner of the relic was a Japanese art dealer and numismatist Hideyuki Wada. He immediately donated the object to the Claude Monet Foundation, that opened the artist’s house in Giverny for visitors.
Yellow dining room in Claude Monet’s house in Giverny. Source: Normandy Foodie
Now the cat is back resting on a cushion in Monet’s dining room. Above it there hangs a facsimile of one of the Japanese engravings that Monet collected. This is a dramatic image of a swooping eagle executed by Utagawa Hiroshige. As a rule, birds should beware of cats, but in the house in Giverny, it is the dozing feline that appears to be the vulnerable one.
Artists mentioned in the article