Tracking the tiger : imaging the beast in British India
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This study excavates the uses and meanings of the tiger as a visual allegory of India during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. My starting point is an oil painting by Edward Armitage entitled Retribution, which employs the tiger as a visual allegory of India. Why did the artist choose a tiger to represent India in this image from 1858, and what significance did the tiger carry in Britain in the 1850s? I attempt to answer these questions by uncovering some, but certainly not all, of the tiger's historic layers. I look at selected textual and visual tiger images that informed nineteenth-century constructions of the tiger. I draw my suggestions about the tiger from a variety of pieces of visual culture, as well as natural histories, art manuals, poetry, hunting texts, and travel logs. Ultimately, mine is not a project that aims to define or codify the meanings of the tiger in the British imagination of the colonial period. Instead, I hope this study unfolds the allegory of the tiger and presents a fuller vision of its construction, and the manner in which that construction took place. I look primarily at British understandings of the tiger, and therefore, I also engage with British conceptions and misconceptions about India, Indians, and what it means to be British.