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Palanquin pole-end

Palanquin pole-end

  • Place of origin:

    Mysore (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    c. 1790-1795 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    silver, gilt

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    South Asia, Room 41, case 28B

This finial is one of a pair made of thickly gilded silver was probably a terminal from one of the poles supporting a palanquin or howdah. Its decoration identifies it as having been made for Tipu Sultan (r.1782-1799) 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 (IS.2545), and was in existence by 1792. 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 and given to the India Museum in London. In 1879, the India Museum's collections were transferred to various institutions including the South Kensingon Museum, later renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Physical description

Palanquins were the litters used when travelling, the poles used by the bearers to carry the palanquin. The gilt pole-ends are in the form of tiger-heads, and are decorated with tiger stripes typical of the court of Tipu Sultan. The shape of the eyes and the scale of the stripes in relation to the head are closely similar to those of Tipu's Tiger.

Place of Origin

Mysore (possibly, made)


c. 1790-1795 (made)



Materials and Techniques

silver, gilt


height: 20 cm, width: 12.5 cm

Object history note

Unknown because the original number is lost. The decoration, however, indicates that this and its pair were made for Tipu Sultan, and it is almost certain that they were acquired by the India Museum and transferred to South Kensington in 1879.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Susan Stronge, Tipu's Tigers, V&A Publishing 2009, pl. 49, p. 50

Labels and date

Gilded silver, cast and chased

Transferred from the Indian Museum in 1879

These pole ends probably came from a litter (palanquin) used to carry women of the court when they travelled. The distinctive tiger-stripes, and the way in which the eyes are modelled, are strikingly similar to those on the wooden tiger in this case. This suggests the pole ends were made at Tipu Sultan’s court. All the ruler’s personal possessions were decorated with tiger-stripe motifs. These carried complex political and religious significance and led to the British referring to Tipu Sultan as ‘The Tiger of Mysore’.


Subjects depicted

Tiger (animal)


Metalwork; India Museum


South & South East Asia Collection

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