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Tipu Sultan’s Ambassadors at Saint-Cloud: Indomania and Anglophobia in Pre-Revolutionary Paris

Meredith Martin
West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture
Vol. 21, No. 1 (Spring-Summer 2014), pp. 37-68
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Bard Graduate Center
DOI: 10.1086/677868
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/677868
Page Count: 32
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Tipu Sultan’s Ambassadors at Saint-Cloud: Indomania and Anglophobia in Pre-Revolutionary Paris
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Abstract

In 1788 three ambassadors sent by Tipu Sultan of Mysore arrived in Paris to ask Louis XVI to form an alliance against British forces in India. Tipu Sultan also wanted to expand trade with France, and the gifts he offered—cotton robes, diamonds, and pearls—expressed his intentions. The Mysore embassy and its gifts, which were publicly displayed in Paris, sparked heated debates about France’s status in India and about Louis XVI’s commercial and geopolitical interests. These controversies play out in representations of the embassy, most notably a gouache by Charles-Eloi Asselin depicting the Mysore ambassadors promenading amid a crowd of fashionable Parisians and textile sellers in the royal gardens of Saint-Cloud. By juxtaposing elements borrowed from fashion illustration, topographical views, and popular prints, Asselin suggests how international trade and imperial rivalry had transformed the French monarchy and, perhaps, contributed to its current crisis.

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