Chinese export porcelain urinal in the shape of a cat with a removable head for the cover and a curled tail for the handle. Its body is covered with sponged blue patches and has two rounded ears facing forward, well-articulated whiskers, brows, piercing black eyes outlined in reddish-brown, and its legs tucked under. The back of the lid and neck of this urinal have been pierced with holes, possibly for a metal hinge. A similar example in the Winterthur Museum (1964.0147a,b) has a tradition of ownership by Dr. Thomas Rodney Brinckle (1804-1853) of Philadelphia. Perhaps the most important ceramics in the bedchambers of early America were receptacles for bodily waste. Chamber pots, urinals, and close stool pans provided a convenient alternative to privies or latrines. If one were sick, cold, or just desperate, a midnight trip to the outdoor privy was not always possible. Objects like this urinal offered immediate and accessible relief. Humbly residing under the bed or in the lower section of the washstand or pot cupboard, these convenient ceramics remained carefully tucked from view in genteel households. Chamberpots and urinals were not standard equipment in all American households, and at some economic levels they were undoubtedly considered luxuries, and even more so in Chinese export porcelain. Louis Phillippe, the future King of France, traveled in the American South in 1797, and he recorded his observations on chamber pots: "Nowhere are there chamber pots; we asked for one at Mr. J. Campbell's and were told that there were broken panes in the windows. The reply was perfect for a game of cross questions and crooked answers. There were indeed many broken panes, and it is a rare thing here to sleep in a hermetically sealed room. The other day, being in a loft, we were looking for the window or opening that should do service for a chamber pot. We found it 10 feet up, and so we insisted on some sort of receptacle; they brought us a kitchen kettle!" The cat form was also used for nightlights, vessels, and incense burners.
One New England dealer has suggested that the cat-shaped urinal is a double entendres about the sex act - the nickname for a cat could refer to a woman's genitals and the male organ would have to be inserted into the cat urinal to be used.
Link to share this object record: