Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Fine Art…Salt and Pepper Shakers?

two steinlen cat figurines
“A La Bodiniére” in salt and pepper shakers.
reproduction of poster
A La Bodiniére

Standing in line at the thrift shop with an armload of new-found treasures, something in my peripheral vision wanted a closer look. I turned to look at two cat figurines—how sweet!—and immediately began to determine if I should purchase them to add them to my lifelong collection of cat figurines. I have no rhyme or reason for what I purchase, it really depends on my whim at that moment, but I can say that I usually do purchase what I find.

These two, however, were more than sweet and rather nicely done, they also looked vaguely familiar. I turned them around and—aha!—they were “the Steinlen cats” (more on that below)! As salt and pepper shakers! There was no doubt, I would purchase them. They now reside in my collection case and if I have special guests some day I may use them for salt and pepper.

But they also reminded me of a photo I’d taken along that theme…

two black cats looking out a window
“Two Black Cats”, 2010

Mewsette and Giuseppe have a front row position to watch the great outdoors outside the big window otherwise known as Cat TV.

Their positions reminded me of a famous poster design, “A La Bodiniére”, by Théophile Steinlein, the painter, illustrator and Art Nouveau printmaker who helped set the standard for poster design and has been a great inspiration to me as both a graphic designer and a feline artist. The poster was advertising “exposition de l’oeuvre dessine et peint“, or an exhibit of his drawings and paintings at La Bodiniere, a theater and exhibit hall.

Steinlein was one of the most famous feline artists of any era, sketching and painting his cats all the time and incorporating their images into his designs. Easily recognizable among his designs are “Tournee du Chat Noir” and no doubt many people have seen “Clinique Chéron” hanging in their veterinarian’s office. See more of Steinlen’s creations in this post on Animalarium.

To say he is and long has been an inspiration to me is a massive understatement. One of my favorite things to sit and study is a beat-up old copy of the Dover Art Library’s Steinlein Cats, showing me pages from his everyday sketchbooks of cats in charcoal, ink, watercolor, studies of paw and ears and noses, a momcat nursing her kittens, a little cartoon of a cat who spilled the milk; what a joy for me to share the inspirations of another artist so intimately. While my finished paintings have always been organized, this book encouraged me to organize my sketches as well and put me on the path to keeping sketchbooks instead of sketching on whatever was handy.

There is no mark anywhere on the set to see who made them or when, but I don’t know of any company that makes fine art salt and pepper shakers! Below are a few more photos of the figurines, along with Mr. Sunshine’s reaction to them…

two steinlen cat figurines
From the front; they are really nicely done for salt and pepper shakers!
two steinlen cat figurines
They really are salt and pepper shakers.
two steinlen cat figurines
Mr. Sunshine inspects the figurines; later he also tasted them.

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.


From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

11 thoughts on “Fine Art…Salt and Pepper Shakers?

  • Anonymous

    Just saw your Steinlen salt & pepper set. How unusual! You were lucky to have found them!
    I have never seen another set and hope someday to find one. I am a collector of all things cat,
    as well as a cat owner and rescuer.
    Good luck to you and God bless you for all you do!

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  • My parents raised me on the antiques-shop-and-flea-market circuit, Bernadette, so I’d say that these shakers were was a wonderful find. Among my favorite finds: a blue Incolay jewelry box with white cats on it, a late 19th-century photo of somebody’s beloved tabby in a brass frame, and a little framed drawing of a cat slipping in through an open window called “The Visitor.” And, of course, there are the big-eyed Pity Cats. Your post brought it all back to me…..

    • Tammy, I have very little that’s older than mid-century, and rarely encountered anything else in my suburban development childhood. I never even knew my grandparents and have very little from their existence. I loved being at Carnegie Antiques, though, and just visiting these places. I don’t want the things–except those precious kitty things–but as someone who makes things I love to surround myself with them.

  • What a great find! And Mewsette and Giuseppe look so similar in that photo. Great composition!

    • It was too much of a concidence–I had to have them!

  • Yes, that song brings to mind all my cats who came before, whether they be male or femaile somehow. And while I dislike Barry Manilow’s version, the way it was sung for the stage show was lovely and when I searched for a version I liked, this version was my favorite…as I saw both Almeida and Byrd at different times so again, another memory…

    • I confess, I sing it around the house–when the musical came out I still had my childhood cat and sang it to her. I was also studying modern poetry and was, and still am, an Eliot fan and the images made by the lyrics. My favorite is Elaine Paige who starred in the British cast and Betty Buckley who starred in the original Broadway cast. Not sure what my cats think.

  • Oh…brought tears to my eyes (or maybe it was that I just listened to the song I want played at my memorial– Either way, these are lovely as is the photo that so looks like Steinlen’s cats did, he knew their bodies and musculature and manner so well…

    • Very interesting version of “Memory”! I love Laurindo Almeida, and of course, who wouldn’t like Charlie Byrd.

      Of course, Mewsette and Giuseppe are the real stars.


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