ipu Sultan ruled Mysore from the death
of his father, Haidar Ali, until his own death at Seringapatam on
4th May 1799. Described by one Scotsman, Major Dirom, as 'an able,
intrepid general,' Tipu was known as The Tiger of Mysore, identified
himself with tigers, and decorated all his personal possessions
with tiger motifs or a stylised tiger stripe (bubri).
His soldiers wore the 'tyger jacket' and
painted bubris decorated the walls of his throne
room and mausoleum.
Contemporary accounts of Tipu describe his dark grey eyes,
long neck, tawny complexion, moustache and clean-shaven
chin. He was also 'inclined to corpulency.' The Scotsman,
Sir John Lindsay, notes that
Tipu 'became an expert soldier, and in the management of
the horse, the bow, the lance or the musket, shone pre-eminent….
He was also an excellent scholar, and even though inured
to war from infancy, reputed a good poet ….and was respected
in the army as an excellent and indefatigable soldier.'
Tipu was also a strongly religions man, following the precepts
of the Suni Muslims.'God give me victory as long as the
Sun and the Moon shine,' was inscribed on his family seal,
while his weapons are often inscribed with a Koranic text,
or a dedication to Mohammed. On his green standard, the
intertwined Persian characters proclaim 'asad allah al-ghalib'
('The Lion of God is Conqueror').
A more familiar portrait shows Tipu as an imperious figure,
clad in a jama of fine, white muslin. Recent research on
this portrait, which was formerly attributed to the European
artist, G.F.Cherry, Persian Secretary to Lord Cornwallis
in 1792, has pointed out that Cherry is more likely to have
been the owner of the painting than its artist. The strong
profile is a totally Indian artistic convention, and the
artist was presumably one from the South (Madras), trained
in oil painting. According to the inscription on the back
of the painting, now in the British Library, Oriental and
India Office Collections, it was given by Cherry 'to the
Begum, Mother of the Sultan' in 1792.The inscription is
signed by Tipu's son, Gholam Muhammad, and it was probably
he who presented the portrait to the East India Company
in 1854 . If this hypothesis is correct, then this Indian
portrait, of c.1792, would be the original for the many
surviving miniature portraits. A contemporary copy was made
and presented to the Marquis Wellesley by Lt.Col. Doveton
and is now at Seringapatam.
Engravings after this portrait were popular, and one version,
set against a view of Tipu's island capital of Seringapatam,
was used as the frontispiece
to one of the best known contemporary texts, 'A View of
the Origin and Conduct of the War with the Late Tippoo Sultaun',
by the Scotsman, Alexander Beatson, published in 1800. In
later years, Tipu preferred to wear
green, an auspicious colour among Muslims