The story of one picture: How a cat saved a baby during a flood and made history
For a long time, artists of the historical genre, as a rule, laid down real historical events in the plots of their paintings, which is quite logical. So the tragedy that occurred on the Dutch coast in 1421, four centuries later found its reflection in the pictorial work of the British artist of Dutch origin – Lawrence Alma-Tadema.
1421 Flood of Saint Elizabeth
The tragic event that occurred six centuries ago had terrifying consequences. And it happened in November 1421, when the coastal territory of the Netherlands was swept by the largest flood caused by the storm tide of St. Elizabeth, on the very day when Catholics honor the memory of St. Elizabeth of Thuringia. Hence the name of this powerful flood.
And what is completely curious about this story is that it was twenty years before this event, day to day — November 18, 1401 that the first flood of St. Elizabeth occurred, which washed away dozens of villages from the coast and claimed hundreds of lives of their inhabitants. But in comparison with the second, it was much less destructive and catastrophic.
So, the flood of 1421 began on November 18th. The element was being played out gradually … A storm tide rose, and a powerful wind ferociously drove the waters of the North Sea from Dordrecht towards the Netherlands. Towards seawater, the waters of the Maas and Baal rivers, which had risen very strongly due to heavy rains, rushed in with no less force. They partially destroyed the dam structures from the inside, weakening their resistance to the pressure of water erupting from the sea. At a catastrophic moment, the waters of the rivers and the North Sea collided, and a powerful avalanche poured ashore, demolishing everything in its path.
In a matter of hours, the boiling streams flooded about three hundred square kilometers of the coastal area. As a result, seventy-two settlements with a large population were under water. The number of those drowned and missing was in the thousands. At approximate calculations, the figure was called within 10 thousand human lives. The destruction was catastrophic: most of the buildings were destroyed, livestock and crop stocks were washed away into the sea. For the survivors, this disaster was a terrible ordeal.
An unofficial story is silent, and legends and traditions that have come down to our days say that after the flood a surviving kid was found in the crash, saved from certain death by an ordinary domestic cat. And the place where this happened was called Kinderdam – “Children’s Dam”.
It was this legend about the baby who survived in that terrible catastrophe that formed the basis of the painting Flooding in Bisbos in 1421, written four centuries later by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, an artist of the historical genre, one of the highest paid painters of the Victorian era.
Lawrence on his canvas depicted this legendary episode at a time when the water receded, and the survivors came out of their shelters to look around. Before the victims opened a terrible picture. The village was practically washed away from the face of the earth. And at the dam itself, a children’s cradle was noticed, which was nailed after a large amount of water. She was severely beaten by the waves on a dam, and on her wooden railing, a cat galloped like a madman. And none of the witnesses could even suggest that someone could survive in the cradle. However, it was decided to save the unfortunate cat – the living being, after all.
And what was the general surprise, when a sweet sleeping baby was found in the crib. A jumping cat, from one end of the railing to the other, kept the cradle in balance so that the baby’s bed remained dry. Scarce did not even wake up among the swirling waves.
What just does not happen in life. Miracles, and only.
History knows many cases when a person, entering a duel with the water element, emerged victorious. The story of the “brave four”, who survived without water and provisions in the open ocean for 49 days, is a clear confirmation of this.