Palanquin pole-ends

Palanquin pole-ends

Silver gilt
Mysore, India
Late 18th century
Museum no. IPN.2599&A

This finial made of thickly gilded silver was probably a terminal from one of the poles supporting a palanquin, a litter used when travelling. Its decoration identifies it as having been made for Tipu Sultan (ruled1782-1799), the Muslim ruler of Mysore in South India. Artefacts made for him personally were decorated with tiger motifs and tiger stripes. Although the use of a tiger head in the decoration of courtly objects was by no means confined to his court, the precise form of the stripes on this finial, the shape of the eye, and the scale of the stripes in relation to the head, all compare closely with other artefacts made for the ruler, notably his mechanical tiger which is also in the V&A. Tipu Sultan's treasury was seized by the British when they defeated the Mysore army at the Siege of Seringapatam in 1799, and divided between the victorious troops. Much of it was immediately resold and anything made of silver or gold was probably melted down. Although any documentation that may have linked this piece directly with Tipu Sultan has been lost, its origins are apparent from its design. The circumstances under which his treasury was broken up make it very likely that it was taken at the 1799 siege.