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Tiger's head 1785-93

RCIN 67212

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This impressive golden head was part of the throne of Tipu Sultan (1750-99), ruler of Mysore, India. Tipu created a sophisticated and modern court around his palace at Seringapatam. The tiger was an ancient symbol of kingship in India but Tipu made it his own, decorating many of the works of art within the palace with images of tigers or tiger stripes, and famously saying 'it is better to live a single day as a tiger than a thousand years as a sheep'. Tipu's throne was composed of an octagonal platform, surrounded by small tigers' heads and supporting a parasol-like canopy surmounted by a jewelled bird of good fortune. The platform appeared to stand on the back of a great roaring tiger, with rock crystal fangs and eyes. The entire structure was covered in sheet gold, engraved with tiger stripes and verses from the Koran. Tipu's reign was characterised by hostilities against the British in India, culminating in 1799 with his defeat at the siege of Seringapatam. His throne was dismantled but the tiger's head remained intact and was presented to William IV in 1831. The original appearance of the throne is shown in these two artists' impressions.