Cat attacking a game-bird, by Alexandre-François Desportes

cat jumping up at a hanging bird

This dramatic painting portrays the natural hunting instincts of a domestic cat. The cat is attacking a dead partridge which has been hung to ripen its flesh and make it easier to pluck. The scene is made more theatrical by the intense stare of the cat’s watchful eyes and the falling bird feathers. 

François Desportes (1661-1743) was France’s leading animal painter during the first half of the 18th century. He was appointed painter to King Louis XIV and painted the family’s favourite dogs, hunting scenes and pictures of exotic birds and mammals to decorate the King’s menagerie at Versailles. Desportes was particularly celebrated for his ability to paint animals accurately from nature and this picture shows how the artist paid great attention to detail, especially in the animals’ fur and feathers.

  • Oil on canvas, painted in 1711
  • On loan to the Walker Art Gallery from a private collection, 2003.
  • Accession number L 908