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  3.43 Tiger Buckle  

©Anne Buddle
Tiger Buckle, Commissioned by the late A V B Norman, as an engagement present for his second wife;
Crathes, with Aberdeen hallmark, 1987

Laminated iron (gun metal) and steel with silver inlay
4 x 5.6 x 1 cm.


orn in Delhi, the late A V B Norman was brought up in Aberdeenshire and was proud of his family's association with India over three centuries. As Master of the Armouries at H M Tower of London (1977-1988), he revived the tradition of a discerning patron working with superb craftsmen to create a great work of art. The Raven Gun, commissioned from Malcolm Appleby (1986), demonstrated the artist's superb technical skills and his brilliant mastery of materials, not least in the barrel, blued as dark and irridescent as a raven's wing. The Tiger Buckle followed (1987). Appropriately, it was to be made of gun metal., the watered steel beaten into the body of the tiger, and richly inlaid with silver stripes. The original design, of a tiger with rounded ears and a rather cheerful smile, was sharpened, at the Master's insistence, to convey that fierce spirit of Tipu, so familiar to the his 18th-century ancestors.

In the 20th century, this legendary power of the tiger has been harnessed in one of the most successful advertising campaigns of modern times, the famous 'Put a Tiger in your Tank' slogan, for Esso Petroleum. This tiger (c.1988/89) adopted every type of guise, from an ancient cutting on the chalk Downs to a youthful supporter of the Esso Living Tree Campaign and of Esso unleaded petrol ('It takes a special kind of animal to turn the competition green'). IBM e-business, in their 1997 advertising campaign, used the image of a powerful tiger to represent competition - something that it was wise to keep one step ahead of - while the Eurotiger Team, of British Aerospace Defence and Eurocopter, described their new attack helicopters as 'The revolutionary Tiger, with mission effectiveness and remarkably low lifecycle costs…. Tiger. More than just a Helicopter. There's a Lot Riding On It.'

Tippoo's Tiger itself has continued to inspire writers, poets, potters, artists and sculptors, from August Barbier's poem of 1837 and 19c topographical guides to London, to the work of living artists: Jan Balet's naïve painting 'Die Seele' in which a trumpeting angel floats over a garden thicket and a tiger devours a uniformed French soldier; or Robert Michell and Danka Napiorkowska's lustreware tureen (1976), dedicated to 'a Young Man called Munro' to 'The Tiger of Mysore' and 'The Man-Tyger Organ.'

One of the most powerful and graceful of all these images is Dhruva Mistry's plaster and fibreglass figure, 'Tipu' (1986). The sculptor studied at the Royal College of Art, adjacent to the Victoria and Albert Museum, where he frequently passed Tippoo's Tiger in its glass case. ''Tipu' I made after seeing Tipu's Tiger,' the artist wrote in 1984, ' but more so after imagining the person and the metaphor (as title) 'tipu' itself revealed by his personality after reading 'tipu's tiger.' I was fascinated and deeply touched by his character as a person - and more so like a tiger.' Mistry captured the grace, poise and powerful presence of one of Tipu's hunting cheetahs in his sculpture, and also its intensity and latent, menacing threat. His 'Tipu' figure has become the embodiment of The Tiger of Mysore himself. Like their 18c predecessors, these painted, carved, embroidered, engraved and modelled tigers, are the creations of talented craftsmen and powerful imagination, lasting tribute to the Tiger of Mysore.

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