It was worth a purr-tty penny, apparently.
“My Wife’s Lovers,” the 19th-century work of art that San Francisco cat lover and philanthropist Kate Birdsall Johnson commissioned an Austrian artist to paint of her 42 beloved cats, sold Wednesday at Sotheby’s in New York for $826,000 — more than two times the high estimate, according to Sothebys.
The buyer, said the auction house, is an anonymous California collector.
The 6 foot tall, 8.5 foot wide and 227 lb. painting, which some described as the “world’s greatest cat painting,” could also be the world’s largest. It was estimated that it would sell for around $300,000 — but clearly, the cacophony of cats purr-oved everybody wrong on Wednesday.
The unusual painting dates back to 1891 when Johnson asked Carl Kahler to paint the furry beasts (apparently she owned up to 350 of them!) that inhabited their very own floor in her Sonoma County mansion.
According to Sotheby’s, although Kahler had never painted a cat before, Mrs. Johnson hired him and for the next three years he sketched her cats in a variety of poses, thus becoming acquainted with their individual personalities and traits. Johnson hired a staff whose sole purpose was to care for the felines.
The meow-ing masterpiece is so heavily packed with felines, it destroyed a wall at Sotheby’s like a cat shredding a living room curtain.
“The picture is so large and so heavy, we had to make a special wall to hang it; when we originally put the painting up on a normal wall, it pulled the nails right out of the wall,” Polly Sartori, head of 19th century European paintings, drawings, and sculpture told Art News.
But nobody is mad at it — instead they’re totally obsessed. Over 5,000 people have viewed a video showcasing the painting since it was posted last weekend.
“For a 19th century [work], that’s extraordinary,” Sartori said. “We knew we had a total winner about two months ago, when we had it just leaning up in our cataloging area, and many of our staffers would take a photograph in front of it and post it on Instagram and we hadn’t even posted our press release yet!”