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Finial

Indian

Category

Gold

Date

1787 - 1793

Materials

gold sheet on a wooden core, set with rubies, diamonds and emeralds

Measurements

83 mm (H)

Place of origin

Mysore

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Collection

Powis Castle and Garden, Powys (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Powis Castle and Garden, Powys, Wales, National Trust

NT 1180713

Caption

This finial was given to Henrietta Antonia Herbert, Countess of Powis by Lord Wellesley. On 4th May 1799, Tipu, Sultan of Mysore fell in the assault on Seringapatam. The city, richest in all South India, fell into British hands. The majority of its riches were divided amongst the British soldiers of that victory. Wellesley was ordered to preserve the most significant contents of Tipu’s palace. Unfortunately the throne had already been stripped and this finial is a rare survivor.

Summary

A tiger head finial from the throne of Tipu Sultan (r.1784-1799). One of two finials known to have survived from the original throne. Gold on a wooden core, set with rubies, diamonds and emeralds; the eyes rubies, the tiger stripes on the head are set with either rubies or diamonds; the tongue set with a ruby, the teeth, diamonds; an emerald set in the forehead; the neck set with two bands of rubies with a band of emeralds between. Mysore (Seringapatam), made between 1787 and 1793. A depiction of the complete throne was drawn by Anna Tonelli: see 1180776.

Provenance

Major David Price, Prize Agent attached to the Madras Army, was part of the team in charge of redistributing the contents of Tipu Sultan's Treasury after the fall of Seringapatam in 1799. Price described Tipu's throne 'As far as I can now describe it, [the throne] was a clumsy wooden platform, of six or eight sides, entirely overlaid with gold, of the thickness, I should conceive, of a sheet of lead; sculptured all over with the tiger streak device. It was supported on four tigers of wood, also covered with gold; and on an iron stay, curving over from the hinder part of the platform, was to be fixed, the Homai, or pheonix; also covered with gold and set with jewels.' The throne was broken up and the sheet gold was cut and made into parcels to pay troops the rest was sold off; the jewels were sold off by auction. The Powis example is one of two finials to have survived from Tipu's throne. The Powis example belonged to the Countess of Powis (Henrietta Antonia Herbert) and is mentioned in her notebook 'An (?) Or Moulu Basket containing a head in pure Gold set with Precious Stones and one of the 8 heads which were on Tipoo Sultan's Throne at Seringapatam given me by Ld.Wellesley'. The second was bought by Surgeon-Major Pulteney Mein at the auction and was the property of one of his descendants until 1974 (this finial was recently sold at Bonhams, London to a private collector). One of the four tiger supports mentioned by Price is in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle as is the huma bird or pheonix. Accepted by HM Treasury on 21st March, 1963 in lieu of tax and conveyed to National Trust ownership on 29th November 1963.

Makers and roles

Indian , maker

References

Archer, Rowell and Skelton 1987 Mildred Archer, Christopher Rowell, and Robert Skelton, Treasures from India: The Clive Collection at Powis Castle, London, 1987, p.75, no.88 Chu 2018 John Chu, ‘Game of Thrones in an 'Asiatic World': Henrietta Clive and Anna Tonelli in British India’, National Trust Historic Houses & Collections Annual, 2018, pp.42, 44

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