A mural lionizing an Indian ruler is sold at auction. His legacy is contested.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Wednesday, June 19, 2024

A mural lionizing an Indian ruler is sold at auction. His legacy is contested.
The battle scene depicts a victory over British troops by an 18th-century Muslim, a man India’s current government would prefer was forgotten. Courtesy Sotheby's.

by Mike Ives

NEW YORK, NY.- The mural shows Indian cavalry troops advancing from both sides on a cornered British army, guns blazing. In one part of the 18th-century battlefield, the victorious commander sits on an elephant holding a red rose.

To a leading British historian of India, the roughly 32-foot-long masterpiece, which was sold at auction in London on Wednesday, is an artistic triumph and a potent symbol of Indian resistance to British imperialism.

“It’s arguably the greatest Indian picture of the defeat of colonialism that survives,” the scholar, William Dalrymple, told Sotheby’s, the auction house overseeing the sale. “It’s a unique and fantastic artwork.”

But in modern India, the commander’s legacy is complicated. Politicians from India’s governing political party, which has increasingly embraced Hindu nationalist rhetoric under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have spent years downplaying his achievements. The commander, Tipu Sultan, was a Muslim; they say he is responsible for the deaths of Hindus.

The mural was sold Wednesday afternoon in London for 630,000 pounds including fees (about $830,000). It was unclear who provided the winning bid. Sotheby’s said before the bidding started that the mural was most likely worth 500,000 to 800,000 pounds. News of the auction was reported earlier by the BBC.

The mural consists of 10 large sheets mounted on canvas and is thought to have been made in the early 19th century. It depicts the Battle of Pollilur in 1780, part of the Anglo-Mysore Wars that took place in southern India around then. It celebrates not only Tipu Sultan, who was about 30 at the time, but also his father, Haidar Ali, then the ruler of Mysore state.

Mysore was among the strongest states to emerge when the Mughal Empire collapsed in the 18th century after dominating the Indian subcontinent for about 200 years.

During the decades that Haidar Ali and later Tipu Sultan ruled Mysore state, reports of their attacks on British trading settlements were carried in British newspapers, “embellished by distance as they were carried home by sea,” according to a 2016 biography of Tipu Sultan by historian Kate Brittlebank.

By the time he died at the hands of British troops in 1799, Brittlebank wrote in her book, Tipu Sultan was “possibly the most famous Indian, if not villain, in the United Kingdom.” His nickname was the “Tiger of Mysore.”

Dalrymple said the Battle of Pollilur was the first defeat of a European army in India and “nearly ended” British colonial rule there.

“Tipu Sultan was probably the most effective opponent that the East India Company ever faced,” said Dalrymple, the author of a 2019 book on the company, which was founded in 1599 to run British trade in Asia and eventually developed into a large army with a trading division.

“Tipu showed that the Indians could fight back,” he added. “That they could win. That they could use European tactics against the Europeans and defeat them.”

During the 20th-century movement for independence in India, he was celebrated as a prototype of a nationalist “freedom fighter,” according to a 2015 essay on his legacy by Akhilesh Pillalamarri in The Diplomat, a current affairs magazine.

Today, grand buildings associated with Tipu Sultan, including a mosque, dot the landscape in and around Mysore. The Karnataka state government promotes the buildings as tourist attractions.

At the same time, officials from Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party are trying to downplay Tipu Sultan’s legacy across India. They objected to a 2015 plan to celebrate his birthday and a more recent one to erect a statue of him in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, among other projects.

The BJP-led state government in Karnataka state has convened a special committee to review whether other Muslim leaders have been “glorified” in local school textbooks. Officials in the party, and their supporters among India’s Hindu nationalist right wing, tend to characterize Muslim rulers of the past as invaders who threatened Indigenous Hindu culture.

Modi’s nationalist message has often pitted Hindus against Muslims. In recent months, calls for anti-Muslim violence in India have increasingly moved from the fringes to the mainstream, even as Modi and top BJP leaders have remained silent.

In modern India, Tipu Sultan is controversial in large part because he was a Muslim ruler whose subjects were mostly Hindus and Jains, Brittlebank wrote in her book, “Tiger.” The British colonial authorities once drew attention to that same contrast, she added, even though it had been common for Muslims to govern non-Muslims on the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal Empire and for years afterward.

British colonial propaganda portrayed Tipu Sultan as a “one-dimensional fanatic,” but work by modern scholars has reconstructed a “very different Tipu,” Dalrymple wrote in an essay for Sotheby’s ahead of the auction.

“What really worried the British was less that Tipu was a Muslim fanatic, something strange and alien, but that he was in fact frighteningly familiar: a modernizing technocrat who used the weapons of the West against their own inventors.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Today's News

April 1, 2022

A Whitney Biennial of shadow and light

Bust from the Met Museum, said to be looted, is returned to Libya

A tiny Brontë book, lost for a century, resurfaces

A mural lionizing an Indian ruler is sold at auction. His legacy is contested.

Exhibition features fourty new drawings by leading American artist Richard Serra

San Antonio Museum of Art acquires important works by pioneering American photographer Laura Aguilar

Exhibition of new work by Willie Cole opens at Alexander and Bonin

Mennello Museum of American Art presents Contemporary Expressions: Prints from Flying Horse Editions

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's 'dissent collar' donated to the Smithsonian

Museum show highlights media-makers on the autism spectrum

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego adds Rothko, Kusama, and López acquisitions to expansive collection

Auction devoted to British and world coins, and historical medals to be held at Dix Noonan Webb

Walker Art Center appoints Amanda Hunt as Head of Public Engagement, Learning and Impact

The Brooklyn Museum appoints new Curator of African Art and Director of Libraries and Archives

Another world record sale from Posters Auction International totals over $2.8 million

Anna Zorina Gallery opens an exhibition of works by Leah Yerpe

Warhol prints soar past estimates at Bonhams Los Angeles sale

Sam Falls now represented by Galerie Eva Presenhuber, 303 Gallery, Franco Noero, Jessica Silverman

A tap-dancing soul in spirit-world limbo

Anna Netrebko seeks distance from Putin after losing work

In 'Oratorio for Living Things,' the song is you

Richard Lipez, who reimagined the gay detective novel, dies at 83

The 2022 Instagram Updates You Need to Know About?

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Gambling

6 Reasons to Invest in a Home Security System

How Do Electric Bikes Work?

What is E-Liquid │ Ultimate Guide to Vape Juice

Can Food Be Considered Art?

The Best Way to Design Your Outdoor Kitchen Online

The art of playing slots

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful