A Collection of Portraits of Tipu Sultan

Portrait of Tipu Sultan

Similar images to the above one is what we see on the internet depicted as Tipu Sultan, [Tippoo Sahib of the British]. But was he really looked like this? In this post I am sharing few portraits of Tipu Sultan made by European artists. As the portrait painting became popular, many European painters came to India between 1770 and 1825 in search of profitable commissions. Above image of Tipu Sultan is taken from the book "The history of Hyder Shah, alias Hyder Ali Khan Bahadur, and of his son, Tippoo Sultaun. By M.M.D.L.T, General in the Army of the Mogul Empire, Revised and Corrected by His Highness Prince Gholam Mohammed [Son of Tipu Sultan]".

1. According to http://tipu-sultaun.blogspot.in, the real image of Tipu is the one from the British Library: See below: This portrait was originally published in the book "The naval and military history of the wars of England, including, the wars of Scotland and Ireland, etc" by Thomas Mante.

Portrait of Tipu Sultan
Portrait of Tipu Sultan
A modified copy of the above from Getty Images

William Daniell and his uncle Thomas Daniell were the most outstanding landscape painters. William accompanied his uncle Thomas Daniell to India in 1786 and remained there till 1794. See Oriental Scenery. Twenty-Four Views in Hindoostan, Taken in the Year 1792; Drawn by Thomas Daniell, and Engraved by Himself and William Daniell

2. This antique steel engraving of Tipu Sultan was published in the book "The Illustrated History of the British Empire in India and the East" by Edward H. Nolan.

Portrait of Tipu Sultan
"Tippoo Saib," a steel engraving by William Daniell, 1830's (with modern hand coloring) - (columbia.edu)

Portrait of Tipu Sultan
Portrait of Tippoo Saib [i.e. Tippu Sultan], ca. 1840 by John Cochran - royalacademy.org.uk

3. Below print was published in the 'Carlton House Magazine' in 1792, soon after signing of the treaty of Srirangapatna, which concluded the third Anglo-Mysore War. No doubt, this is a work of imagination.

Tipu Sultan
The Sultaun Tippoo Saib. Engraved for the Carlton House Magazine, Published by W. & J. Stratford, No.112 Holborn Hill, Sep. 1792 - grosvenorprints.com

4. Here is the painting of Tipu Sultan as prince by John Zoffany in 1780, inside the Daria Daulat Bagh in Srirangapatna. John Zoffany was one of the most famous portrait painters of the 18th century. According to various sources, John Zoffany came to India in 1783 only. He worked in India from 1783 to 1789. It should be noted that Tipu never employed European artists to draw his pictures. The mural paintings in the walls of his Summer Palace (Daria Daulat Bagh) were done by his court painters.

Close-up of Tipu Sultan
Close-up of head and shoulders from full length portrait of Tipu Sahib(later Tipu Sultan) . 1780. Oil painting by John Zoffany (1733-1810). Tipu Sultan Museum

Full length Portrait of Tipu Sultan
Full length Portrait of Tipu Sahib, later Tipu Sultan. 1780. Oil painting by John Zoffany (1733-1810). Tipu Sultan Museum

5. Below image of Tipu was taken from Mohibbul Hasan's book:

Tipu Sultan in Youth
History of Tipu Sultan By Mohibbul Hasan

6. Here's another one:

Tipu Sahib also known as Tiger of Mysore (1750-1799), ruler of Kingdom of Mysore, 19th century lithography - eBay

So the conclusion is that most of the images depicted as Tipu Sultan had come from the artists's own imaginations. According to Denys M. Forrest, author of the "Tiger of Mysore: Life and Death of Tipu Sultan", "all the surviving portraits of Tipu Sultan are so similar in character that they must either date from the same period or derived from a common source. The incidents in Tipu's career which most strongly engaged the fancy of the history painters were of course the surrender of his sons as hostages and his own last struggle and death!"

If we take a closer look of the images No. 1, 2 &4, we can confirm that those are of the same person; may be the real Tipu Sultan when he was young. I would like to add one more image to this collection:

"Tippoo Sultaun delivering to Gullumalli the Vakeel his two sons" - A Lithograph by Joseph Grozer after Henry Singleton, published 10 August 1793 - National Army Museum

Below is a closer version of the same painting in color from Asian Art Museum.

"The sons of Tipu Sultan leaving their father" - Artist: Henry Singleton

Below is a painting of Prince Fateh Hyder, the eldest son of Tipu Sultan. Fateh Hyder was very like his father in appearance.

Prince Fateh Hyder, eldest son of Tipu Sultan. Oil painting by Thomas Hickey - Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata


  1. Love the collection and he almost looks diferent in each potrait, but, hats off to the artists who crreated such wonderful art :)