Back to Tipu Menu

  3.1 Tipu Sultan  


©Collection Otto Money
Tipu Sultan:D/ from painting of The Battle of Pollilur, 1780

Gouache on five sheets of paper, with canvas backing
222.4 x 976 cm

Unknown Indian Artist;
c.1820-40

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


back to top of page

Acknowledgements


Bibliography

© Copyright 2000 The National Galleries of Scotland.
All rights reserved. All trademarks recognised.