On May 4, 1799, General Sir David Baird stormed the southern Indian city of Mysore with his British troops. During the violent battle, Tipu Sahib, the last independent sultan of Mysore, was killed. His death, which led to the city's final surrender, marked the final consolidation of British rule in India.
Sir David Wilkie based his composition on a contemporary account of the scene: "About dusk, General Baird, in consequence of information he had received at the palace, came with lights to the gate, accompanied by the late Killadar [Governor of the Fort], and others, to search for the body of the sultan; and after much labor it was found and brought from under a heap of slain to the inside of the gate."Baird stands in the gateway under which Tipu received his death wound.
Wilkie took much care with the design; he took nearly four years and produced numerous preparatory drawings before completing the final painting. This drawing shows an early stage in the development of the composition.