Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Siege of Seringapatam


Not on display

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

Catalogue entry

Colnaghi, London
Bought 1948 by Ray Livingston Murphy, New York (died 1953)
Murphy estate, Christie’s, London, 19 November 1985 (26, as by William Daniell), withdrawn
Sold Christie’s, London, 18 March 1986 (109), acquired on behalf of Tate
The forces of General Baird took Seringapatam from Tipu Sultan in May 1799, bringing to an end the Mysore Wars. A large oil painting of the siege was produced by Robert Ker Porter (1777–1842), Turner’s colleague in the Royal Academy Schools; it is now in Tipu’s Summer Palace at Seringapatam. Porter made a series of engravings after it, which were widely circulated. Many other artists also recorded this important battle.
A group of three watercolours, formerly attributed to William Daniell (1769–1837) but in fact by Turner, apparently based on drawings by one or more eye–witnesses, show the Residence of the Mysore Rajah within the fort of Seringapatam, during the last three years of his confinement, Hoollay Deedy, or new Sally–port in the inner Rampart of Seringapatam, where Tippoo Sultaun was killed, on the 4th May 1799, and the present work, a general view of the siege with the British forces crossing the river Cauvery (all with Colnaghi, 1948; bought by Ray Livingston Murphy, offered for sale at Christie’s, London, 19 November 1985 as lots 24, 25 and 26, as by Daniell, but withdrawn).
A coloured study adumbrating the whole composition of this last of these subjects was in Turner’s studio, and is now in a private collection.1 A study for a further subject in the series is Tate D17190 (Turner Bequest CXCVI Z), which seems to have been based on an anonymous drawing. Hoolley Deedy was based on a drawing made on the spot by Thomas Sydenham (1780–1816), now in the India Office collection at the British Library, London.2 The watercolour of the siege itself follows a drawing by Captain Alexander Allan, present at the battle, which Turner might have seen either in the original or in the form of an engraving. Visible amid the smoke of battle are the fortifications of the city, the pyramidal gopura or entrance tower of the Hindu temple, and the minarets of the Mosque.
See Wilton and |Brown 1988, p.59, reproduced.
See Wilton 2001, pp.40–1.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.7–8 no.10.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Revised by Matthew Imms
April 2015

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