Time is running out in the race to save a golden, jewel-encrusted tiger’s head from 18th century India for public collections. The tiger’s head is known as the Tipu Sultan’s Throne Finial and was created in eighteenth century India for Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore. The precious item was brought to the UK by Thomas Wallace, 1st Baron Wallace (1763 – 1844) and has remained in the country ever since.
The Trustees of Sir William Burrell’s Trust and the Art Fund have offered £125,000 towards the purchase with Glasgow Museums supplying another £30,000. The effort is still more than £110,000 short of the asking price of £398,600, and the temporary export ban expires on Monday 15 November 2010.
Recognised by the British Government as being of outstanding significance, the tiger-shaped finial is made from Indian gold encrusted with gems. If the total asking price can be raised, Tipu Sultan’s Throne Finial would be displayed at The Burrell Collection in Glasgow.
The throne finial was made in the royal workshops at Seringapatam by an unknown 18th century Indian goldsmith, working in the capital of the south Indian kingdom of Mysore between 1787 and 1793. It was part of the throne created for the use of Sultan Fatih Ali Khan Tipu, popularly known as Tipu Sahib or Tipu Sultan, who ruled Mysore between 1782 and 1799. The throne was truly unique with its prominent tiger theme. It was adorned with stripes and decorated with a total of eight tiger’s heads.
Noorah Al-Gailani, Curator of Islamic Civilisations at The Burrell Collection said: “If we don’t raise the last of the money, there’s a chance this great treasure will be lost to the nation forever. Sir William Burrell devoted his to life to collecting great works and important items from across the world. In the most selfless of acts, he gifted them to the people of Glasgow. We are now looking for an individual, trust or company who will follow his example and secure this finial for Glasgow and Britain.”
Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said: “This is an outstanding artefact which tells all kinds of stories of a bygone era. This golden tiger captures the wealth and power of the Tipu Sultan, but it also reminds us of the impact of the British Empire on colonised countries. We hope that the final amount will be raised in time to keep this gem in public collections, so that it can illuminate the past for many more visitors, for years to come.”
The golden tiger finial represents the life of Tipu Sultan and his battles with the British East India Company army and administration. Four Anglo-Mysore wars were fought and in the last one Tipu finally lost his kingdom and his life. The finial and its stand belonged to Lord Thomas Wallace (1763 – 1844), 1st Baron Wallace of Knarsdale, Northumberland.
It is listed in an 1843 inventory of the contents of Featherstone Castle, the family seat. Lord Wallace was a prominent politician and Member of Parliament. He had a close association with India through a number of senior official posts he held related to the British administration of India, and to trade with the Subcontinent and with the British East India Company.
The tiger also represents the society of the Kingdom of Mysore, where Hindus – the majority of the population – lived in harmony with the minority ruling Muslims. Tipu Sultan’s Mysore was known for its social stability and economic prosperity.
To donate to the fundraising appeal, please email the Museum Manager firstname.lastname@example.org
or write to The Burrell Collection, 2060 Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow G43 1AT, Tel. 0141 2872550.
Notes to Editors
1 Tipu Sultan’s throne finial is in the shape of a jewelled gold tiger’s head, made of hammered gold sheet set with foiled polished cabochon rubies and emeralds and foiled table-cut diamonds. It is decorated with engraved outlines and punch-work into the gold sheet. The gems are spread out symmetrically over the tiger’s head defining his eyes, eyebrows, nose, whiskers, teeth, tongue, stripes, and neck-collar. The finial’s core is filled with lac, a natural tree resin. The tiger’s head is 6.9 cm high and 338g in weight.
2- The black marble pedestal is formed of two parts: an upper cubic platform and a lower rectangular one. Gilded metal claw-and-ball fixtures hold these two parts together. The upper part of the pedestal has, on one of its sides, a gilt metal appliqué square frame containing parts of an inscription in Farsi script. The total height of the finial and its pedestal is 17.5 cm.
3. The Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for works of art and plays a major part in enriching the range, quality and understanding of art in the UK. It campaigns, fundraises and gives money to museums and galleries to buy and show art, and promotes its enjoyment through its events and membership scheme. Current initiatives include sponsoring the UK tour of the ARTIST ROOMS collection, and running a major campaign in partnership with the National Trust to raise £2.7 million to save Brueghel’s The Procession to Calvary for Nostell Priory. The Art Fund is funded by its art-loving and museum-going members and supporters who believe that great art should be for everyone to enjoy.