Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Siege of Seringapatam


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour, gouache and graphite on paper
Support: 421 x 647 mm
Purchased 1986

Catalogue entry

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

T04160 The Siege of Seringapatam c. 1800

Pencil and watercolour with scraping-out and touches of body colour on wove paper laid down on a trimmed ruled line mount 421 x 654 (16 5/8 x 25 3/4)
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1986
Prov: ...; Colnaghi, from whom bt 1948 by Ray Livingston Murphy, New York (d.1953); his executors' sales, Christie's 19 Nov. 1985 (26, repr., as William Daniell) withdrawn, Christie's 18 March 1986 (109, repr. in col., as attributed to J.M.W. Turner) ?9,180 bt Andrew Wyld for Tate Gallery

This sheet is one of three Seringapatam subjects acquired by Ray Livingston Murphy from Messrs Colnaghi's in 1948 as by William Daniell. The other two are inscribed on contemporary mounts: 'HOOLLAY DEEDY, or new Sally-port in the inner rampart of SERINGAPATAM, where Tippoo Sultaun was killed, on the 4th May 1799'; and 'RESIDENCE of the Mysore Rajah within the fort of SERINGAPATAM, during the last three years of his confinement.' The former is based on a watercolour made on the spot by Thomas Sydenham (now in the India Office Library), who may have supplied the originals of all three subjects.

Turner was not himself an eye-witness of the Siege of Seringapatam by the British under General Baird during the fourth Mysore War, 1798-9, but was presumably approached, either directly by Sydenham, or by someone else associated with India (possibly the Daniells, whom he knew), to work up sketches into finished watercolours commemorating an event which was widely celebrated at the time. Turner's colleague at the Royal Academy Schools, Sir Robert Ker Porter, produced one of the most spectacular records of the event, a large panorama which was issued as a series of prints.

The view of the siege itself, with troops crossing the River Cauvery, and the island of Seringapatam with Hindu temple, Mosque and fort visible amid smoke, is Turner's first surviving battle subject (a painting of the Battle of the Nile exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1799 is lost). He made a careful preparatory study for it (private collection) in which most of the features of the finished drawing are in place. A further study, TB CXCVI-Z, appears to be a preliminary design for a fourth Seringapatam subject, and corresponds closely in general layout to a small watercolour (apparently drawn some time after the siege) by an anonymous hand, also in the India Office Library, inscribed 'Gateway where Tippoo resided during the siege of Seringapatam'. The precise date of this project, which is not recorded in any of the Turner literature, can only be guessed at; but the drawings are consistent in style with the assumption that they were undertaken while the siege was still topical, i.e. within six months to a year of the event.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.82-3

You might like