One of the most famous objects in the V&A Museum is ‘Tipu’s Tiger!’
‘Tipu’s Tiger’ was made for Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore in South India from 1782 to 1799. The tiger, an almost life-sized wooden semi-automaton, mauls a European soldier lying on his back. Concealed inside the tiger’s body, behind a hinged flap, is an organ which can be operated by turning the handle next to it. This simultaneously makes the man’s arm lift up and down and produces noises intended to imitate his dying moans.
The tiger was created for Tipu and makes use of his personal emblem of the tiger and expresses his hatred of his enemy, the British of the East India Company. The tiger was discovered in his summer palace after East India Company troops stormed Tipu’s capital in 1799. The Governor General, Lord Mornington sent the tiger to Britain initially intending it to be an exhibit in the Tower of London. First exhibited to the London public in 1808 in East India House, then the offices of the East India Company in London, it was later transferred to the V&A Museum in 1880.