Conservation in Action: Playing Tippoo's Tiger

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Video Transcript


Nigel Bamfort, Senior Conservator, Furniture and Wood, V&A

Once the object has been here, we’ve had the object up and running and a specialist has come along to the museum who has an understanding of ancient and 18th century instruments and he has come to play the object for us.

[Music playing]


So that’s a 4 - 40…today, and that corresponds to this note on the keyboard. So the keyboard runs from something along a concert D [notes playing] to semi-tones [high notes playing]


Tippoo’s Tiger was created for the amusement of the Indian Sultan Tipu, whose obsession with this exotic beast and ultimate defeat by the British captured the Victorian imagination and inspired literary minds from Keats and Blake to Wilkie Collins. The tiger is a life-size automaton which sinks its teeth into a 17th century Redcoat. Hand-operated bellows reproduce the wails of the victim, while a set of ivory keys work a pump organ thought to have originated in France. After over three centuries and a pan-Asiatic journey from South India, Tippoo’s Tiger is a delicate relic and can rarely be played. But in this film you can hear the strange and rare sound of the pipe organ in action.

In this film you can hear the strange and rare sound of the pipe organ in action...

The player is an 18th century instrument specialist who was called in during the conservation of  this unique object. The chosen tune was Rule Britannia, a ditty that Tipu Sultan is sure to have heartily disapproved of.