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.
When I was a kid, my weird and wonderful mother used to amuse us by picking up the cat and pretending to play it like a bagpipe, using its tail as a mouthpiece. Her improvised feline instrument has, sadly, been upstaged by my discovery of the Katzenklavier, a Cat-Piano (also known as a cat organ) dreamed up in the 16th century.
These three intriguing photographs have no real relationship with one another, except that each image reveals a little bit of the hidden history of art. Read on for more about these remarkable images.