Tipu Sultan's Golden Tiger head saked by the British Army 1799 - Interesting facts

India Festival V&A presents The Al Thani Collection

Tiger Head mounted on it’s wooden base. The silver-gilt inscribed base was made by the London silversmith, Paul Storr (1771 – 1844) and  Mr. Seabrook, Goldsmith. The paws of gilded copper were added in 1875............................

Among the great victories by the East India company's Army in India and elsewhere, the one at Srirangapatna (now in the Karnataka state) in May 1799 against  their sworn-enemy Tipu Sultan was one of the very few greatest British victories in the empire. It was something like felling the mighty Goliath by David. A brilliant warrior and administrator, he also took keen interest in innovations and fine artistic work. Many of his innovations  in weapons, buildings, art works, etc.,  done under his  direction were executed with meticulous care and attention by  the talented artisans of his days.  No compromises on  either quality of work or materials being used in the work.  Tipu reigned his land and dispensed fair justice by majestically sitting on the  outstanding throne in the form of a life size tiger, covered  in shinning gold metal sheets  studded with dazzling precious stones of immense value. Tipu Sultan's quote, "I would 'rather live one day as a tiger than a lifetime as a sheep" is quite well-known across the Indian subcontinent and England.
It is one among the most symbolic artistic objects of Tipu's kingdom and carries historical and heritage value. An interesting fact that many people may not be aware of is that Tipu Sultan never sat on the throne. He refused to do so until he defeated his arch enemy - the East India British company who made sucker out of Indian rulers who were busy catching each others' throat.

Some interesting facts of gem-crusted gold tiger: 

According to Lt. Col. Alexander Beatson, a witness to the sack of Tipu’s palace at Seringapatam, 'it was a wooden tiger as large as life, covered with gold, in the attitude of standing, which was placed across his back'.
Tipu Sultan's gem crusted tiger-head., India in.pinterest.com

Tiger head, Tipu Sultan. pinterest.co.uk

 Above image: Tipu Sultan's Gold tiger's head | Royal Collection Trust. 1799. Gold, rubies, diamonds, rock crystal. Acquirer: William IV, King of the United Kingdom (1765-1837). Provenance: Presented to William IV by the East India Company, 1831. This tiger's head was the centerpiece of an octagonal throne which was made for Tipu but which he may never have used....................

01. After Tipu's fall and death, the East India company began making a list of his treasury, etc.,  for proper division of valuable items. Earlier,  there was an unruly loot of the spoils of war - some of the valuable treasures in the palace. Commander Wellesley was against dismantling  the throne, a nice work done by the Mysorean artisans. 
But the British troops, fresh from victory, began to dismantle and retain separate pieces from the  throne as a war trophy. They had no idea about  the historic and aesthetic value of the throne. Nor were they aware of its unique artistic work and workmanship. 
melee  after the death of Tipu Sultan, India. dailymail.co.uk

Above image: This painting depicting the chaotic situation in the Tipu's fort at Srirangapatna upon his death on May 4, 1799. His ornate gold-plated gem-encrusted thrown was broken up and divided as spoils despite strong objection from Gov. Gen. Lord Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington). 

02. The throne was too large in size to be carried  away. A decision was taken to break up the throne and  the Asiatic Annual Register (1799: 223)  justified the action  during the sack of Seringapatam. 

03. It was a howdah upon a tiger, covered with sheet gold and is accessed by  silver steps, gilt, having silver nails and  fastenings of the same metal.  The fine canopy (8 to 9 feet tall from the bottom of the throne) was decorated with a costly fringe of fine pearls all around it. 

04. The  Huma bird made entirely of precious stones, was  sent to England in August 1799 by Cornwallis.

05. The eyes and teeth of tiger were made of glass crystals.

06. The tiger throne with stripes is supported by 4 legs with tiger paws. 

07. The total value then was  60,000 pagodas.

08. The main gold tiger head, two small ones of the same metal and the Huma bird  were separated from the huge gold plated tiger throne.

09. The Court of Directors on  24 May 1800, received the huge tiger head, the Huma bird and a carpet  from India dispatched on 20 January 1800 by Commander Richard Wellesley (later Lord Mornington) through his ADC. 

10. Putney Mein, Surgeon in the British troops in Srirangapatna got the tiger head for 500 pounds through auction from whom Wellesley purchased it to be sent to the museum. It not taken by Earl Cornwallis but by Lord Harris  Richard Wellesley sent it to the museum to be presented to the king..

11. The tiger head and other parts of the throne were in the EIC museum for a long time for some reason. 
Based on a  resolution on 2 November 1831 by the Court of directors of the Museum, Lord Steward  was to present it to King William IV.

12. The tiger’s head  is made of beaten gold sheet on a wooden core, engraved overall with large stripes – bubris, the distinguishing mark of Tipu and his court;
solid gold finia 18th century, Gem-encrusted gold tiger Daily Mail

One can observe  the Tiger Stripes ‘Bubris’ and Tipu’s Tiger Seal Calligraphy on the forehead of the Tiger.
'Bismillah Muhammad' Calligraphy in the Tiger Head Pattern.  

13. The nose, mouth, eyes and teeth  were carefully made.  The tiger’s neck has a gold collar attached with ridged rope and scroll moldings.

14. Among the original eight  tiger head finials  only three tiger are  believed to have survived the last one was was sold just 18 months ago after having lain in a castle for 100 years.

15. The  jeweled bird 'Huma'  was presented to Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III.

16.  As for the third golden tiger head, it was acquired by the second Lady Clive in India and is at Powis Castle.

17.  A similar finial came to light last  year and sold at auction last year for £389,600. - vide,  Bonhams