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The Marquis Cornwallis receiving the hostage Princes, sons of Tippoo Sultaun, in view of Seringapatam

The Marquis Cornwallis receiving the hostage Princes, sons of Tippoo Sultaun

The Marquis Cornwallis receiving the hostage Princes, sons of Tippoo Sultaun, in view of Seringapatam, by Daniel Orme (British, 1766-1832), 1799. Hand-colored engraving. From the Collection of William K. Ehrenfeld, M.D., 2005.64.190.

Picturesque images were much in demand in nineteenth-century Europe and America. Appropriate paintings were copied as engravings and mezzotints, so as to be affordable by middle class households. Particularly popular were dramatic, even sentimental scenes such as this. If they were also patriotic, so much the better. Here, two of the sons of the Indian ruler Tipu Sultan are being handed over to the British, who had insisted on being given the royal hostages as surety for a treaty. Such an image could have been read by a British audience as an allegory of colonialism, it might have been thought, India would benefit like the little boys, from being taken into the care of the wise and noble British. A brochure that accompanied this print when it was issued in 1799 described “ the amiable princes looking up to that exalted character [Lord Cornwallis] as their only protector, father and friend.”