Ben’s Beast: ‘Man Slain by a Tiger’

Over at the Penfold Press in Selby, Daniel Bugg is working away on a test piece in the run-up to beginning our collaboration on the ambitious, fourteen-print series based on the medieval poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. But instead of making a Gawain test print, Dan and I opted to produce a print of what had originally been a very small drawing I’d made as a birthday gift for my friend Ben Koppel.

In 18th-century India, the ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, commissioned the making of an automaton representing an incident in which a man had been attacked and killed by a tiger. It’s thought that the ‘toy’ was an expression of Tipu Sultan’s hatred for the British, and it was discovered and requisitioned by the East India troops when they stormed his Summer Palace in the capital in 1799. Tipu’s Tiger, as it’s since become known, is now in the collection of the V&A.

The gruesome incident was also commemorated in a rather jaunty Staffordshire group called The Death of Munrow, and it’s this vivid ceramic that was the model for the drawing made for Ben.

In the Staffordshire piece the man is identified as ‘Munrow’, and shown in the uniform of an army officer. However, it’s believed that the historic event commemorated in the Staffordshire group, was  the death in 1792 of Hugh Munro, a civilian. He was the son of General Sir Hector Munro, who had commanded a division during Sir Eyre Coote’s victory at the Battle of Porto Novo in 1781, when Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan’s father, was defeated with a loss of 10,000 men. Eleven years later Hugh Munro, while on a hunting expedition in India, was attacked and killed by a tiger, and Tipu’s Tiger appears to be an expression of schadenfreude by Tipu Sultan at the death of an old enemy’s son. The Staffordshire group The Death of Munrow, seems to have conflated the event portrayed in Tipu’s Tiger, with Tipu Sultan’s hatred of the British armed forces in India.

A few weeks ago I started making the separations for the print, working in lithographic crayon and paint on drafting-film and TrueGrain.

Below: pencil guide.

Below: lithographic crayon on TrueGrain, a drafting-film with a granulated quality that’s akin to lithography stone.

From my separations, Dan made the screens ready for printing, and began the process of assembling the print. Here are some of the proofs made as he’s tried various colours.

Below: a lemony yellow lends a pleasingly toy-like quality to the image.

Above: a warmer yellow, and an adjusted blue, red and pink, printed before the final, black pass.

Below: an olive green better harmonises the print.

Sombre shadow makes the image deeper and the mood more elegiac.

A rich and harmonic image, with the yellow, warmed, and the green not unduly pulling the eye.

These will soon be arriving in the post for me to look over. When Dan and I have agreed the way forward, he’ll begin the job of making a final proof, and then editioning.

12 thoughts on “Ben’s Beast: ‘Man Slain by a Tiger’

  1. Pingback: Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

  2. Just come to say three volumes of Marly Youmans’s Maze of Blood have just arrived.

    I could not resist the temptation, and have abandoned all the piles of housework in order to browse through the table of contents, the dedication (to …. ‘and Jeffery Beam’ ), the chapter titles and the illustrations. And I have read the “Texas Curtain-Raiser”. I can’t wait to have done with my chores, to be able to go on reading.

    I had ordered two volumes, apart from mine, as gifts for family and friends, but I am going to have to order more, because otherwise there are going to be fights for the books.


    • I have forwarded this comment to Marly, just in case she misses it. I know she’s going to be thrilled.

      I’m so pleased that the appearance of the book has not disappointed you, and I know you are going to love reading it. I know I did, and moreover never grew tired of re-reading it as I worked on the images. I need to read it again now, in it’s published finery.

      Thank you, Maria, for this news of Maze of Blood in Spain!

    • What fun to think of copies in Spain! And it’s good to know that books can postpone housework (just wish they could do it for us as well.) Thank you so much, Maria!

      Clive, your The Death of Munrow looks wonderfully paradoxical, so weirdly commemorative, so jolly and so horrible all at once! Like a housecat with a toy soldier…

      I’m fighting autocorrect, which wants housecat to be housecoat so, so much!

  3. I have had the privilege of seeing this print being created at the Penfold Press last week. It was wonderful to see your work on its way to becoming a screen print. The proof I saw definitely packs a punch, even though I know there is still some tweaking to be done. We are all in for a treat! (-:

  4. I love this story, of Tipu Sultan having an automaton made in rememberance of the deed, because he hated the British, but it is totally dated and politically incorrect.

    Nowadays, we have the story of “Cecil”, the “beloved wild lion” of Zimbabwe, only this time, it is the beast that gets killed, and animal-lovers everywhere want to hang the American dentist who shot him! This in spite of the voices from local Zimbabweans who live from the revenue of the parks, and the safaris for rich tourists who complain of the ruckus over the death of a lion, when unnamed and easily forgotten Africans die every day trying to flee their countries in search of a better life.

    At least, the Sultan did remember Munrow, the slain officer’s name, and did not name the tiger…

    • Maria, Tipu’s Tiger is indeed a strange ‘celebration’ of what must have been a horrible death. It’s easy to be swept away by its charm and ingenuity, especially so long after the event.

      I’m not sure that Tipu Sultan ‘remembered’ Munrow’s name. The legend The Death of Munrow is not inscribed on the the automaton, but on the Staffordshire pottery group commemorating the same event. Moreover the name Tipu’s Tiger, coined after the automaton had been seized and brought to Britain, refers not to the Sultan’s tiger… as it might with an animal in the Sultan’s menagerie… but to his ownership of the automaton.

      I suppose that while politically incorrect to make a toy to celebrate a death, what we should try to do today, is celebrate the skill and ingenuity of the maker. I have no idea whether his name is remembered, or even known.

      I think it just as odd that Munrow’s death was commemorated in a decorative ceramic that people would display on their sideboards or dressers. It’s such a cheery piece, too, with the characterful tiger looking so jolly. And it’s not the only such piece Staffordshire made. There’s a particularly horrifying group called The Menagerie, in which a baby dangles from a tiger’s jaws, while the mother, slain or fainted dead away, lies prone at its feet. I can find no record of what event it commemorated, if any, but it’s a gruesome piece.

      • Automata of every kind used to be treasured by kings everywhere. And some of the automata makers from the 18th century are well remembered, like Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1729-1790 ) and his sons.

        I shall try to find who the maker of the Tipu’s Tiger was.

        • It would be good to know. If you have any luck then let me know, and I shall adjust the above text to include the information.

          I adjusted the text today, when I discovered that despite the way ‘Munrow’ is represented in the the Staffordshire ceramic, the historic event was not of a British army officer slain, but the civilian son of a British General.

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