Tippoo’s Tigress?

When I’ve read the New York Times’ impressive world view on any given day in the past decade, two words that are rarely, if ever mentioned, often appear in my mind. Imperialism & Treason. Two antiquated words in the vocabulary of political and economic history that are just as relevant today as when they were coined. Yet considering the extensive media coverage of the mounting social and monetary chaos in our world, those terms would be apt descriptors. Is political correctness the malefactor muzzling their use? Perhaps…

These were my thoughts as, wandering through the halls of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, I came upon a wooden near life-size sculpture of a tiger atop what appeared to be a fallen European soldier. Turns out this creepy objet d’ art was an automaton, a mechanical organ commissioned around 1793 by Tippoo Saib, Sultan of Mysore, India. The tiger, his personal emblem, was employed to express his smouldering hatred of the British economic and military domination of his country by simulating the mauling of a British East India Company officer. Though some of today’s political cartoonists brave the wrath of extreme world leaders, it is often gentle mockery when compared with the outrage that informs Tippoo’s Tiger. Given our perceived helplessness in the face of global entropy, I suppose our true reactions are as always, best expressed in art, bequeathing the task of interpretation to future generations.

Moving on, I realized that it was nearly time for lunch. But in my current state of mind, eating meat was not an esthetic option, so when I rounded the corner of Cromwell Road onto Exhibition Road, the Kensington Crêperie with its art nouveau ambience and hints of London Underground tile decor caught my eye. The aroma of sweet and savoury crêpes was irresistible. When, with tiger-like grace, she had seated me at a small round table on a Thonet style chair, this green-eyed mahogany-haired waitperson brought a steaming cinnamon-sprinkled cappuccino to accompany my choice of the smoked salmon crêpe with crisp red onions and piquant capers. Heavenly decadent enough to temporarily banish thoughts of Tippoo and 18th century British foreign policy…

Other images from the Notes From The London Underground series may be seen and purchased as gicleé prints at http://www.magiceyegallery.com.

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