The Louvre may be one of the largest and most visited museums in the world, but there are ways to make this impressive institution feel much more intimate.
Finding an empty room is easier than you may imagine, the THATlou treasure hunt is a blast, and making a personal connection with the objects comes naturally when you stumble upon something that speaks to you. Secrets of the Louvre is a series that focuses on the lesser-known works of the Louvre’s collection and sheds light on the immense variety this museum has to offer.
Show me the mummy!
Deep in the Department of Egyptian Antiquities of the Louvre’s Sully wing you will find a little room. The room is dimly lit with faint spotlights concentrated onto a glass display case. Inside this case, you will find the cat mummies. They aren’t the only embalmed creatures to grace the shelves – falcons and a crocodile are also featured – but in true feline spirit, the kitties seem the most playful.
The Ancient Egyptians worshiped multiple gods, including animal gods. Bastet was the goddess of cats and offerings were made in reverence to her, often in the form of mummified cats and kittens. The act of embalming the cat permits its body to rest indefinitely in tact, allowing the soul of the animal to roam free in the afterlife.
How were they made?
Toughen up for a moment because I’m going to hit you with a hard truth : The cats and kittens were typically sacrificed while living (sorry!). Often decapitated, their bodies where filled with dirt and pebbles and then embalmed. The degree of decoration applied to the sculpted head as well as the fineness of the linen covering indicate the social stature of the cat’s caretaker. Some cat mummies were found with little pots of milk and mummified mice.
The collection of Egyptian Antiquities at the Louvre has been continuously enriched from the 19th century to today. The French archeologist Mariette made major discoveries at Saqqara and sent 5,964 works back home to Paris between 1852 and 1853, some cat mummies were known to be found at this site.
Are there cat mummies in other museums?
Another site discovered this time by the British in 1888 at Beni Hasan held more than 19 tons of animal mummies. Some cats can now be found preserved at the British Museum, others where notoriously ground up in the 19th century and used as fertilizer.
Where to see the cat mummies:Louvre Museum Sully Wing Ground Floor Room 19, Case 8 Open ever day but Tuesday from 9 to 6. Wednesday and Friday nights until 9:45PM Métro: Palais Royal/Musée du Louvre (lines 1 and 7)