|from the british library's flickr. PD|
Joseph Nollekens (British; 1737-1823) was a sculptor of great renown in his time. (Here's a few of his works at the Getty.) He was also reputed to be a man of odd and miserly ways, so much so that after his death a colleague wrote a biography infamous for its unflattering candor. Here's an excerpt in which we see Nollekens, descending into senility but still able to work. The scene is supposed to be pathetic, but I must admit it makes me a little sad that his pleasure in his cat's antics is here being held up to ridicule.
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Sir William Beechey has a little group (a sculpture - curator) possessing much merit, which Nollekens modelled from his design only a short time before his last attack; though he would then occasionally leave off, and give Bronze, his poor old servant, money to dance his favourite cat, "Jenny Dawdle," round about the room to please him; and at which he would always laugh himself heartily into a fit of coughing, and continue to laugh and cough, with tears of pleasure trickling down his cheeks upon his bib, until Bronze declared the cat to be quite tired enough for that morning.*
*This cat, the favourite of her master, his constant companion at his breakfast and dinner-table, being no longer praised and petted by her master's visitors after his death, was kindly rescued from unthinking boys, or the stealers of cats for the sake of their skins, by Mrs. Holt, who took her to her home, which she had left to oblige Mr. Nollekens, where it now enjoys a warm-hearted fireside friend.
***from Smith, J. Thomas. (1829). Nollekens and his times: comprehending a life of that celebrated sculptor and memoirs of several contemporary artists, from the time of Roubiliac, Hogarth and Reynolds to that of Fuseli, Flaxman and Blake. Second edition. London: Henry Colburn .... 15.