Figurehead HMS Seringapatam
© National Maritime Museum
Photo: © National Maritime Museum
On display in the Traders Gallery, NMM
Figurehead of HMS 'Seringapatam'. The seated turbanned figure is, perhaps erroneously, presumed to represent Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore, riding on a roc - a mythical bird of great strength. The upper part of the body is unclothed, more like an elephant mahout, with the right arm raised to support a sun umbrella made of metal. The umbrella, normally born by attendants, is both a practical accoutrement and a symbol of the status of the person sheltered. Tipu was the son and successor of Haidar Ali, Sultan of Mysore, both having a long and bloody antagonism to the extension of British rule in India. Tipu's capital of Seringapatam was finally stormed in 1799 by troops under Sir David Baird, who had also fought his father, when his body was discovered shot through the head under a pile of his supporters'. One of the famous items in the Victoria and Albert Museum is the automaton known as 'Tipoo's tiger' - a large clockwork-driven carved toy comprising a wooden tiger savaging a British soldier, which also originally emitted mechanical growls and screams: this was part of the booty taken from Tipu's palace. This piece is also Indian work.
H167.6 x W114.3 x D157.5 cms
Wood: Teak. Copper, Iron
Figurehead was presented to the NMM by the Admiralty in 1936, having previously been stored in Fire Engine House, Devonport.
HMS 'Seringapatam' a 46-gun, 5-rate frigate built for the Navy in India, at Bombay Dockyard, in 1819. She became a receiving ship in 1847 and in 1852 a coal hulk at the Cape of Good Hope, where she was broken up in 1873.
Admiralty Catalogue (1911) No 454
National Maritime Museum
Royal Museums Greenwich, London SE10 9NF
Ownership can be cited online
Accessible to public
Data verified by owner