Buy Yourself a 19th Century Cat Painting at Auction, Stat

The Green Pillow by Arthur Wardle. Estimated price: $25,000. Image Credit: Bonhams

Wealthy cat ladies with a penchant for the arts, take note: The 19th century equivalent of LOLCats is going on sale this week. As part of a May 6 sale of 19th century European paintings at the New York outpost of Bonhams auction house, several magnificent works of feline appreciation are available to the public. 

As cat memes are to the Internet era, so finely realized paintings of cuddly domestic kittens were to Europe in the 1800s, and Bonhams’ latest sale features several grand masters of the genre, Dutch painters Henriette Ronner-Knip and Cornelis Raaphorst, as well as English painter Arthur Wardle, who also painted dogs.

A Terrier Playing With Kittens by Henriette Ronner-Knip. Estimated price: $40,000. Image Credit: Bonhams

As Madalina Lazen, Bonhams’ senior specialist in 19th century paintings, tells Vulture, the second half of the 19th century was something of a cat-painting renaissance:

‘It was a trend that snowballed,’ Lazen says. Bourgeois collectors, interested in enhancing plush domestic interiors, bought the cat canvases. It became a good market for artists, some of whom became well known in the genre. 

Someone get me $20,000 to $40,000! I have some very important art purchases to make. 

[h/t: Vulture

Watch How a Bioluminescence Expert Catches a Giant Squid

Giant squid have been the object of fascination for millennia; they may have even provided the origin for the legendary Nordic sea monsters known as the Kraken. But no one had captured them in their natural environment on video until 2012, when marine biologist and bioluminescence expert Edith Widder snagged the first-ever images off Japan's Ogasawara Islands [PDF]. Widder figured out that previous dives—which tended to bring down a ton of gear and bright lights—were scaring all the creatures away. (Slate compares it to "the equivalent of coming into a darkened theater and shining a spotlight at the audience.")

In this clip from BBC Earth Unplugged, Widder explains how the innovative camera-and-lure combo she devised, known as the Eye-in-the-Sea, finally accomplished the job by using red lights (which most deep-sea creatures can't see) and an electronic jellyfish (called the e-jelly) with a flashy light show just right to lure in predators like Architeuthis dux. "I've tried a bunch of different things over the years to try to be able to talk to the animals," Widder says in the video, "and with the e-jelly, I feel like I'm finally making some progress."

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

Big Questions
Why Are There No Snakes in Ireland?

Legend tells of St. Patrick using the power of his faith to drive all of Ireland’s snakes into the sea. It’s an impressive image, but there’s no way it could have happened.

There never were any snakes in Ireland, partly for the same reason that there are no snakes in Hawaii, Iceland, New Zealand, Greenland, or Antarctica: the Emerald Isle is, well, an island.

Eightofnine via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Once upon a time, Ireland was connected to a larger landmass. But that time was an ice age that kept the land far too chilly for cold-blooded reptiles. As the ice age ended around 10,000 years ago, glaciers melted, pouring even more cold water into the now-impassable expanse between Ireland and its neighbors.

Other animals, like wild boars, lynx, and brown bears, managed to make it across—as did a single reptile: the common lizard. Snakes, however, missed their chance.

The country’s serpent-free reputation has, somewhat perversely, turned snake ownership into a status symbol. There have been numerous reports of large pet snakes escaping or being released. As of yet, no species has managed to take hold in the wild—a small miracle in itself.

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