In ancient Egyptian times the cat, or Mau as it was then known, was considered a sacred creature. Many domestic cats were mummified and the Greek historian Herodotus wrote that when a cat died, the household would go into mourning, shaving their eyebrows to signify their loss.

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The cat goddess Bast or Bastet - a deity representing protection, fertility and motherhood – was widely represented in Egyptian art. The 6in (15cm) high bronze that was in Sworders' sale yesterday, dated from the 4th century BC, possibly the 26th dynasty, and depicts the deity in a typical seated pose. It has a rich brown patina and is mounted on a later wooden plinth.

The cat was one of the many lots from the collection of David and Judy Starling who lived in a grade II-listed farmhouse in Kelverdon. David Starling was a regular visitor to many of London's leading antique dealers in the 1980s and 1990s, however, this bronze is thought to have been acquired from dealer Arieh Klein, Jerusalem, in 1996. A hit in the sale-room, it sold at £8 000.

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