In Search of a Stuffed Cat

The embalmed cat of Doge Francesco Morosini, Natural History Museum, Venice
Doge Francesco Morosini (r. 1688-94) is famed within Venetian circles for being the general who, in the 1680s, recaptured the Peloponnese from the Ottomans (thus earning him the title, Il Peloponnesiaco).

He is famed, in the world at large, for being the general, whose artillery, on the fateful day of September 26th 1687, blew up the Parthenon. However, in the eyes of a staunch ailurophile, the doge is famed for being the man who was so fond of his pet cat (Nini), that he took him everywhere, even into battle. The bond may have been reinforced by the fact that Morosini had red hair and Nini was a ginger tom. 

When Nini died the doge had him embalmed and the cat ended up in the Museo Correr alongside other Morosini memorabilia. Although I have visited the Museo Correr on several occasions, I had never noticed the fabled tomcat so yesterday afternoon I set off with the express purpose of tracking him down.  

I went to the museum linguistically prepared, having looked up, in advance, the Italian word for embalmed (imbalsamato). I wandered the length and breadth of the galleries in search of a stuffed ginger cat, but found nothing. I finally asked one of the custodians, Dove posso trovare il gatto imbalsamato, but my question was met with a blank stare. To clarify, I added the words Doge Francesco Morosini. The stare, however, remained blank, but was accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders. I didn't have the heart (or the time) to ask another guard so I gave up.
Natural History Museum, Venice
I later read on the internet that Nini had been transferred to the Museo di Storia Naturale (The Natural History Museum) and so this morning I set off again in pursuit of him. To save time, I asked at the entrance where I might find the stuffed cat. In a natural history museum, such a question might have elicited many responses of a sarcastic nature. But the custodian seemed to know exactly what I was talking about and directed me to the small room in which Nini is kept. I looked around for an embalmed ginger tomcat, but could see nothing even vaguely resembling such a creature until the assistant pointed to a somewhat dessicated and furless specimen in a glass box, declaring eccolo.  

Although my search was over, I was a tad disappointed by what I saw. What on earth has happened to his ginger fur! 


  1. Funny, I write about Morosini since years and still did not know about that cat... Thanks for the information!

  2. Sure it's not the original, thou no Technics were available to perform such task, could be petrified or so.


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