[Animals were there at the beginning of art. But how did we get from Chauvet to "Dogs Playing Poker" and beyond? That's one of the questions 13.7 will be asking with this month's series, "Ars Animalis"—art of the animals.]
Eighteenth-century Korean painter Byeon Sang-byeok was so good at depicting cats and birds that he earned the nicknames "Byeon goyangi" ("Byeon cat") and "Byeon dak" ("Byeon rooster").
This work, Myojakdo (literally, "Painting of Cats and Sparrows"), an ink and wash painting ("sumukhwa") on silk, is considered to be a prime example of "yeongmohwa," a Korean genre painting of birds with other animals.
The title of the work combines the words for cat ("myo") and sparrow ("jak"). "Myo" is similar to the Han Chinese word "mo" ("old person," between 80-90 years old), while "jak" is similar to the Han Chinese word for "magpie," which is considered an auspicious bird in Korean culture. Consequently, cats and sparrows were common subjects in Korean paintings to symbolize longevity and good fortune.
Painted around 1730, during the Joseon Dynasty, Myojakdo has been praised not only for its exquisite detail, but also for its simple yet dynamic composition, which exudes a powerful sense of movement. It is housed at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul.
- Tell China to stop cat slaughter. Every day in China, cats are hooked by the neck, skinned and thrown into boiling water to be made into a meal. Many of them are stolen from households or residential areas around the country. Crammed into cages so tightly they can barely move and shipped by trucks, most of the cats are severely injured, many with broken limbs and starved, when they arrive at their destination in Guangdong Province in southern China. Here they are sold to restaurants where they meet their grisly fate. (Care2.com)
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image: Myojakdo (~1730, during the Joseon Dynasty), by Byeon Sangbyeok, (Wikimedia Commons)