Tipu’s (or Tippoo’s) Tiger is a life-sized wooden mechanical organ made around 1793, depicting a tiger mauling a man in European clothing. When the crank is turned, a hidden mechanism causes the man’s arm to goes up and down, and plays his wails of agony along the growls of the tiger. Under a flap on the tiger’s body there is also a small pipe organ, which can play 18 notes.
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the preserved skins of exotic animals from faraway lands were brought back to Europe by explorers. The hides would be handed over to taxidermists whose job it was to prepare them for display by stuffing the skins and giving them a life-like appearance. However, the taxidermists often just had to guess at the shape and appearance of these unfamiliar animals based on crude sketches and descriptions, resulting in grotesque physical distortions which would […]