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Who is Mad Tom?

Tom o'Bedlam is a figure of old English folklore. The name was used to describe vagrant beggars who had real (or sometimes feigned) mental illnesses, and were said to be former inmates of the (in)famous Bethlem Royal Hospital, known as Bedlam (still running today but, thankfully, under completely different and much better circumstances!). "Tom o'Bedlam" or "Tom o'Bedlam's Song" is the name of an anonymous 16th century poem, and one of the characters in the play "King Lear" by William Shakespeare pretends to be "Tom o'Bedlam" at one point.

This lively picture was inspired by a (presumably) 15th century woodcut of a man riding backwards on a large cat which I saw reproduced in a book published in the 1890s, which unfortunately had no reference to the original artist. The book was about witchcraft in Britain and America, and the image was supposed to be a warlock riding to an occult gathering on his familiar beast.

I have reinvented the figures as mad Tom riding a large orange tomcat - but whither are they going? Who is master? Is the cat real? Are they happy?

This is an original lithograph, hand-printed on beautiful soft Somerset "Newsprint" paper in Edinburgh in 2011, in an edition of 12. It measures 20,2 x 15,1 cm. I will send it securely flatpacked with Royal Mail tracking info, to make sure poor Tom does not go astray!

Mad Tom & Cat - limited edition stone lithograph, Tom o'Bedlam, ginger cat, tomcat, lunatic, folklore, folk song, English, madness, fanstasy

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  • Handmade item
  • Materials: lithography, printmaking, stone lithography, paper
  • Ships worldwide from United Kingdom
  • Feedback: 119 reviews
  • Favorited by: 14 people