Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Martin Luther King Day 2011: Samuel Morse's "Little Miss Hone"

You know how the internet is drowning in pictures of cats? As of this writing, a Flickr image search for 'cat' turns up 8.3 million results. And that's just on Flickr.

 

You think this is some modern hipster Web 2.0 phenomenon?

 

LOL. You have no idea.

 

Arguably, one of the inventors of the Internet, or in any case point-to-point mass communication using electricity, which is really all the Internet is when you get down to it, was Samuel Finley Breese Morse, inventor of the telegraph, Morse code — "steampunk binary code" to put it in modern terms.

 

And what did Samuel Morse do when he wasn't inventing modern society? He was a painter.

 

And what did he paint? Cats.

 

Yes, really.

 

LOL.

 

Quoth the caption:

 

Best known for inventing the telegraph and the Morse code, Samuel Morse began his career as a painter. He made this portrait of five-year-old Mary Hone for her father, Isaac, a New York auctioneer. Echoing sentimental English pictures of children, Morse shows her examining her future role as a mother. He wrote, "I shall paint her with a cat set up in her lap like a baby, with a towel under its chin, and a cap on its head, and she employed in feeding it with a spoon."

 

Just think, if Morse had had a thing for dogs, the Internet would be covered with cute little affectionate puppies today.

 

But no. We're saddled with cats, antisocial little monsters that are just waiting for their chance to pounce on us (adorably, but still).

 

We had our chance, society, and we blew it.

 

In 1824.

 

I hope you're happy with yourselves.

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Taken on January 17, 2011