A number of posts on this blog have featured female figures with strategically placed kitty-cats, a double-entendre of "pussy" as an affectionate name for a cat and as a vulgar reference to female genitalia. The Barrison Sisters built an entire vaudeville career in the 1890s by showing off their "pussies" on stage. This bawdy bronze is a slightly different play on pussy. A cute kitten sits on a marble base. Its realistic fluffy coat and appealing face are superbly sculpted, highlighted with a deep golden patina. Just 5 inches high, but with substantial heft, it could have served as a paperweight for a gentleman's desk.
Why a gentleman? Well, this prurient pussy swings open to expose a kneeling nude lady, smugly smiling as she clutches a cache of jewels. She has a subtler golden patina than her feline friend, and her hair and gems are a softly-tinted rose.
Almost obscured by the curls in the fur, "AUSTRIA" is stamped on the back rim of the cat. Beginning in the mid-19th century, Austria, particularly in Vienna, was famous for its foundries and ateliers producing finely crafted artistic bronzes. The works covered a wide variety of genres, including classical studies, animals and nature, comic subjects, Orientalist images, and even erotic images. Often the naughty bits were concealed in a seemingly innocuous subject, only to be revealed by a push of a button or lifting a up a piece of metal drapery. There is a wide variety of these Austria sculptures concealing salacious secrets, with nubile nudes hidden within an assortment of owls, mice, sphinxes, mummy cases, Eastern idols, and, perhaps most appropriately, an iron maiden.