Aquamanile in the Form of Aristotle and Phyllis [unknown artist], late 14th/early 15th century, Netherlands, bronze, 32.5 x 17.9 x 39.3 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
An aquamanile is a type of vessel used for pouring water onto the hands before a meal - or before Mass in a religious context. I’m not totally sure where exactly the water flows from, but I’m guessing it has something to do with Aristotle’s head or neck. Phyllis, the daughter of a Thracian king in Greek mythology, is perched on the back of the philosopher. The story goes that Aristotle wanted to prove to young men that a seductive woman will even work her magic on the elderly. Here, he is shown in a humiliating pose that would have been highly amusing to guests observing the object at a dinner table.
Baron Adolf de Mayer, Mrs. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in a costume by Léon Bakst, 1913
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Egon Schiele, Two Sleeping Girls, 1911
The Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration, now known as the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, held an exhibit in the ’40s about the cat in history and art. Nine Lives, its exhibit catalog, is available in our collection of digitized books, and was used as a reference in the Wikipedia article on the cultural depiction of cats.
If you’re curious, the Smithsonian Collections Search can point you to over 100 objects in the Cooper Hewitt about cats.
View of Gerhard Richter exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, 2014