he head is one of the eight 'Smaller Tigers Heads' described and
illustrated by Capt Marriott, in his contemporary
watercolour (6 Aug. 1799) of Tipu's throne. This example is inscribed
'Tiger's head which formed part of Tippoo's throne, with H.A.Powis's
love,' and was one of a number of Tipu objects collected by or for
Henrietta Powis, wife of the 2nd Lord Clive, and heiress to the
Powis estate at Welshpool, in Wales. The tiger head is also recorded
(March 1802) among the 'Articles from Madras in Portland Place House,'
the London house of the Earl of Powis. Lady Clive's own notebook
(after 1804), listing objects that she intended to give away or
leave as bequests includes the following entry: 'An ?Or Moulu Basket
containing a head in pure Gold, set with Precious Stones and one
of the 8 heads which were on Tippoo Sultan's Throne.' A watercolour
of Tipu seated on his throne was painted in 1800 by the Clive family's
governesss, Anna Tonelli and quite clearly shows the eight finials.
Another misconception concerning Tipu's throne relates to 'a rather
low, gilded seat of oriental pattern, always reported to be the
Throne of Tippu,' which Lord Curzon described (1923) in Government
House Calcutta, where it remains today.
Although this may have had some association with Tipu, it was certainly
not his principle throne: Curzon considered it 'exceedingly unlike
a throne in the ordinary sense of the word, It contained large brass
rings, fixed to the base which had showed that it has once been
strapped to something and I could find no-one to tell me anything
else about it.'
The large central tiger head and the jewelled
huma bird from the throne-canopy were brought back to London and displayed
at India House in 1800. This event inspired The Scots Magazine to publish
(March 1800) 'Sic Transit Gloria Mundi: Stanzas on viewing the ornaments
of Tippoo Sultaun's Throne in the Treasury at India House':
||Ah! What avails the golden ore?
The ruby's or the di'mond's flame
When Heav'n's high hand protects no more
And grandeur is an empty name?
Contrary to the Scotsman's prediction, the surviving elements from Tipu's
throne still retain their grandeur today. In addition to the two above-mentioned,
these include a small, jewelled tiger finial,
probably from a rod of office; a gold tiger claw, adapted as a snuff box;
the wooden core from one of the supporting feet, inscribed 'foot of the
tiger which supported a platform on which stood Tipu Sultan's throne;'
and another small, jewelled tiger head from the throne railing. This was
identified as the finial bought by the Surgeon-Major, Pultney Mein, which
had remained with his descendants until it appeared on the London art market