Nannie in Ivorex, 1910
I have done three posts already on Robby Burns’ ‘Tam O’Shanter’ (see here, here and here) and I am bound to do more because so many different objects have been decorated with scenes from this poem. Despite the fact that the poem is 224 lines long, with a variety of action, all of the postcards, paintings, plates, jugs, toothpaste containers etc only ever rework the same few scenes: the six same scenes painted by John Faed (and engraved by Lumb Stocks and James Stephenson) in 1855.
Of these six scenes, only three feature our sexy witch “Nannie”, in her famous “cutty sark” (short shirt): Nannie dancing, Nannie leaping out the window, and Nannie with the tail of the Tam’s horse clutched in her hand on the crest of the bridge (the tail gives way “as if blasted by a stroke of lightning”). This last scene seems to be one of the favourites with illustrators; personally I prefer the dancing.
The caption to this Ivorex plaque is “So Maggie runs the Witches Follow wi’ monie an eldritch skriech and hollow” (Maggie is the name of the horse). It should have been “The carlin claught her by the rump, And left poor Maggie scarce a stump”, but I guess the earlier lines sound better.
As you will discover if you look here: Ivorex plaques were made in England between 1899 and 1965: the originals were sculpted by Arthur Osborne; plaster duplicates of this original were made via gelatine moulds; the plaques were hand finished and painted by local women using water colours (under the direction of Walter Davis); then the plaques were dipped in hot paraffin wax to give them their Ivory-like finish.
This plaque is 220 x 135mm (9½” x 6½”) and is signed and dated on the back.
As you can see from the two pictures below, Osborne’s molding is quite impressive, and the colouring is good. The delightful Nannie is the “souple jad … a strang” (supple wench, and strong) as Burn’s describes her, although—once again—her “cutty sark” is not “In longtitude … sorely scanty” (i.e. very short) as Burns describes it. The search continues for a more accurate depiction of Nannie and her scanty sark. In the meantime, enjoy!