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  3.28 The Storming of Seringapatam, 1799: D/ Left Side, showing the Breach  

© Anne Buddle
From the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad. The Storming of Seringapatam in 1799, D/ Left Side, showing the Breach ; 1800

Oil on canvas
88.9 x 243.8 (approx) cm

After SIR ROBERT KER PORTER (1777-1842)

obert Ker Porter was one of the first artists to celebrate the British victory at Seringapatam, although he had never visited India. His vast painting, a panorama covering 2,550 square feet of canvas, was painted in six weeks, when the artist was only twenty-three. A correspondent to The Athenaeum of 1843, recalled that 'within six weeks after he had listened to its details, he suddenly astonished the people of London, by presenting the whole scene on a spread of canvas of one hundred and twenty feet, in the Great Room at the Lyceum.'

It was in Edinburgh that the first 360º panorama, Robert Barker's 'Panoramic View from Calton Hill,' 25 feet in diameter, had been constructed in 1789, and a watercolour by Charles Halkerston,'Princes Street from the Mound' painted in 1843, shows the 'Panorama' building on the rising ground South of the Royal Scottish Academy and the site of the present National Galleries of Scotland. Ker Porter had studied in Edinburgh before moving, in 1790, to London, where his panorama, 21feet high, and 120 feet long was painted. It was exhibited in situ, at The Lyceum Theatre in the Strand, from 17th April 1800 to 10th January 1801, and was accompanied by a printed key and a pocket-sized companion guide: 'Narrative Sketches of the Conquest of the Mysore' which contained a 'Descriptive Sketch of the Storming of Seringapatam, as exhibited in The Great Historical Picture, painted by Robert Ker Porter.'

The President of the Royal Academy in London , Benjamin West, described the panorama as a 'wonder of the World …painted by that boy Ker Porter in six weeks and as admirably done as it could have been by the best historical painter among us in as many months.' Ker Porter's sister, Jane, wrote enthusiastically that the picture was 'all fire, energy, intelligence and animation. You looked a second time, and the figures moved, and were commingled in hot and bloody fight. You saw the flash of the cannon, the glitter of the bayonet, the gleam of the falchion. You longed to be leaping from crag to crag with Sir David Baird who is hallooing his men on to victory! Then, again, you seemed to be listening to the groans of the wounded and the dying - and more than one woman was carried out swooning.'

After its rapturous reception in London, the panorama then toured the British Isles. The Edinburgh Evening Courant of 5th May 1801 announced : 'The Public are respectfully informed this wonderful production of art, which has been the admiration and astonishment of the Metropolis of England for these last twelve months, is now open for public inspection in a Temporary Building erected for that purpose, North Side of the New College every day (Sunday excepted) during its short stay in Edinburgh (Admittance One Shilling).

This Painting is designed from the most correct information relative to the scenery of the place, the costume of the soldiery, and the various circumstances of the attack; it is executed by that celebrated young artist, Robert Ker Porter, upon a scale comprehending 2550 square feet of canvas, and contains several hundred Figures as large as Life, with Portraits of the British officers, an explanatory description of which will be given at the place of the exhibition.' The panorama includes, on the left skyline, Tipu's palace, with the Sultan and his French commander, Chapuy, visible on the battlements.

Unfortunately, while he was preparing for his first exhibition, Ker Porter consigned the original panorama to storage in a friend's warehouse, where it was unhappily destroyed in a fire that consumed the premises.' A smaller version, one of Ker Porter's 'original sketches,' was displayed at the Royal Scottish Academy Galleries, in Edinburgh, in the Naval and Military Exhibition of 1889, and in 1999 in 'The Tiger and the Thistle' exhibition..

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