Restaurant Cats

Paul Gauguin, 1848-1903, French, Night Cafe at Arles, 1888, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow.

Boris Kustodiev, 1878-1927, Russian, Traktir* in Moscow. 1916. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. 

*A traktir is an old Russian word used to denote a restaurant.

     These paintings, one French (left) the other Russian (right), have a striking similarity: the colors, the lay-out, even the position and pose of the cats... Both are in the lower left corners, next to a table leg. I have to admit, the French cat looks a bit froggy while the Russian cat is thin and wiry but still the resemblance is evident. Of course cats were always popular in restaurants as ratters but because of the development of modern pest-control devices, their services aren't needed any longer. Some restaurants still employ cats but more as a tourist attraction than anything else. A fine example is the Parisian restaurant "Le Tango du Chat" or Cat's Tango in English, its trademark is the gigantic black and white cat named, of course, Tango. When you come to think about it, Frenchmen were always the most ardent cat-lovers: Victor Hugo, the carinal Richelieu, Charles Perro the writer of Puss in Boots, painters Renoir, Monet, Delacroix, poets Charles Bodler, Theophile Gautier, and, of course, Bridgette Bardot and Jane Birkin, who share the feline view that cats are the most perfect animals in the world.

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