olan's History was probably published shortly after the
desperate events of 1857 in India.
The frontispiece faithfully reproduces Wilkie's
great canvas of 'General Sir David Baird Discovering
the Body of Sultan Tippoo Sahib after Having Captured Seringapatam
on the 4th May, 1799,' completed some twenty years earlier.
The choice of this image, instead of one associated with
the campaigns of Lord Clive or the Duke
of Wellington in India, is an indication of the popular
impact of Wilkie's portrait. Wilkie himself had written
in 1837 'The interest of the subject I find grows as I proceed,'
and his rendering of the scene has remained one of the icons
of the Mysore Wars, not just as a "domestic memorial", but
also as a statement of Scottish identity. One modern Art
historian, in a convincing assessment of this subject and
its development in portraits after 1745, proposes the following
interpretation of Wilkie's composition : "The scene that
the Highlander (bearing the torch) illuminates is not the
private celebration of a deceased husband, but the representation
of a new found universality ; a member of the Scottish elite
is offered to us in the format of a baroque, post-Reformation
altarpiece ….. just as the risen Jesus causes the heavens
to open and terrifies the soldiers in the foreground." (One
modern Art Historian, Fintan Cullen: The Art of Assimilation
Scotland and its Heros; Art History vol. 16, No. 4, Dec.