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Tippoo
Date: 1800
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Medium: Watercolor and black ink over graphite on paper, laid on card
Dimensions: Overall: 13 1/2 x 13 1/8 in. ( 34.3 x 33.3 cm )
Credit Line: Gift of Miss Mae L. P. Pringle, Brooklyn, granddaughter of the artist
Object Number: 1956.172
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Inscribed: Inscribed at lower center outside image in black ink: "Tippoo--"; verso of board inscribed: "This Picture was painted by James Pringle / when he was 13 years old. / Edward T. Pringle."

Gallery Label:

In this charming example of juvenilia, which he signed with great pride, the thirteen-year-old Pringle portrayed a household pet while he was still in England. The cat, Tippoo, was named after Tipu Sahib, the late eighteenth-century sultan of Mysore, India, who died defending his kingdom against the British. The sultan’s emblem was a tiger, and his obsession with the animal led the British to start referring to him as “the Tiger of Mysore.” After his death, a painted rosewood semi-automaton of a tiger mauling a prostrate figure in European clothes was found in his palace. The machine combined movement, two windpipe mechanisms, and a manual organ. It was named Tippoo’s Tiger and presented to the East India Company, where it became a great attraction in London; today the automaton is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Young Pringle either saw it in storage before its public display or noticed its reproduction in print, for he named his tiger cat after this renowned automaton.

By depicting Tippoo before a window draped with an elegant curtain and framing view of a tree, Pringle underlines the cat’s domesticated nature. The tree beckons Tippoo outside, alluding to his wild outdoor potential, while the curtain’s tassels refer to his indoor amusement. Taken in conjunction with the astutely captured expression on the cat’s face, it is clear that the precocious Pringle was visually analytical and aware of the many aspects of his pet’s nature, enabling him to create a true animal portrait.

James Fulton Pringle was a marine painter who took the middle name Fulton in celebration of the inventor of the steamboat. He trained with his father, the English artist James Pringle. Not much is known about the Pringles, but James Junior may have served in the navy during the War of 1812. The young Pringle received commissions from members of the British admiralty and exhibited his works at the Royal Academy of the Arts in London. After leaving England in 1828, he settled in Brooklyn, where he continued to paint seascapes and harbor views. He exhibited in New York at the National Academy of Design and at the Apollo Association.

Provenance:

Descent through artist's family; Miss Mae L.P. Pringle, Brooklyn, New York

Bibliography:

Olson, Roberta J.M. Drawn by New York: Six Centuries of Watercolors and Drawings at the New-York Historical Society. New York and London: New-York Historical Society and D Giles Ltd., 2008.

Exhibitions:

"Petropolis: A Social History of Urban People and their Animal Companions," New-York Historical Society, July 15–November 2, 2003.

"Drawn By New York: Six Centuries of Watercolors and Drawings," New-York Historical Society, September 18, 2008–January 07, 2009.