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  3.15 Louis XVI Receives the Ambassadors of Tipu Sultan  


©The British Library (OIOC) , London
Louis XVI Receives the Ambassadors of Tipu Sultan, 1788. Dates: French 19th century

Line engraving, for a illustration 15 x 20 cm

VOYER, After EMILE WATTIER (1800-1862); French 1788

fter the Treaty of Paris (1763), the French could no longer dream of an empire in India. However, they retained five trading posts there, and continued to espouse any opportunity of extending their influence, especially at the expense of the British. After supporting the colonists in the American War of Independence (1776), the French now aspired to expel the British from India. To this end, St Lubin considered an alliance with the Marathas in return for a port on the West coast of India; Louis XVI and Madhu Rao Narayan signed a treaty of alliance in 1782 which brought the great Bussy to the Ille de France (Mauritius). The French Admiral, De Suffren, met Haidar Ali, and ceremonially presented him with a portrait of Louis XVI. The Treaty of Versailles (1783) halted Tipu's attempts to recover Mangalore from the British, but in 1786, he was able to dispatch an embassy to Constantinople and thence to Paris, although this second stage had to be abandoned. Impatiently, Tipu dispatched another embassy direct to Paris in July 1787. The three ambassadors, Mohammed Dervich Khan, Akbar Ali Khan and Mohammad Osman Khan arrived at the port of Toulon with M.Monneron, a French merchant from Pondicherry. A delightful souvenir of this event is a lady's fan, decorated with a hand-coloured etching depicting the ambassadors disembarking. The printed text on the reverse proclaims (in translation from the French) : 'Tipou-Saeb has remained too long unknown. Let us share his glory, hear of his exploits and sing of his victories.' It was not until late August 1788 that Louis XVI granted the ambassadors an audience in the Salon d'Hercules at the Palace of Versailles.

Emile Wattier's original drawing for this scene survives in the Archives of the Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres. It was one of a series of designs for Sèvres plaques, which would decorate an elaborate bureau -sécretaire. The decorative scheme included scenes from the history of the Palace of Versailles, and the life of Louis XVI, including the visit of Benjamin Franklin to Paris. A surviving plaster plaquette, depicting the reception of Tipu's Ambassadors, includes in the scene two Scotsmen of the Guarde de la Manche. The bureau-secretaire, which is still at Versailles, was exhibited at the Salon d'Industrie in Paris on 1st January 1830, although the Tipu Ambassadors panel was omitted from the final design.


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