LONDON, UK.- Sotheby's London will offer collectors an exciting and rare opportunity to acquire a range of works of art, weaponry, textiles, books and photographs relating to India and the Far East, in a series of four auctions which will focus on the cultural interplay between East and West. The series will include three unique and unparalleled single owner sales that comprise a vast array of works, the majority of which have not been seen on the open market for almost thirty years.
The Tipu Sultan Collection - The Tipu Sultan Collection was originally formed by Robin Wigington - author and leading authority on Tipu firearms - over a period of 30 years and although it has since changed hands, it remains completely in tact. It is the most important collection of its kind ever to come to the market and is estimated to fetch in excess of £800,000 when it is offered for sale on Wednesday, May 25, 2005. The single owner sale will include an outstanding group of weaponry and other rarities captured after the British stormed Tipu Sultan's palace at Seringapatam in May 1799.
Tipu Sultan, "Tiger of Mysore" (reigned 1782-99), is one of the great heroes of Indian history. Described by Mahatma Gandhi as "an embodiment of Hindu-Muslim unity", Tipu led a heroic and ultimately doomed struggle against the occupying power. His honourable resistance and glorious death, standing sword in hand defending the gates of his palace, left a lasting impression on vanquishers and vanquished alike. After the siege, his palace was duly sacked by the British. Much of the booty captured by General Baird and Colonel Arthur Wellesley (the future Duke of Wellington) was presented to "Mad King George", George III (r.1760-1820), and ended up in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle, but a considerable quantity was distributed among the British officers who led the successful campaign. Many of these treasures were passed down through generations and were subsequently acquired for the Tipu Sultan Collection.
Tipu was obsessed with tigers and adopted the tiger motif as his emblem of state, which was stamped on every item in court, including guns and the hilts of swords. One of the most important highlights in the collection is an Exotic Gem-set Trophy Sword, which is estimated to fetch £50,000-£70,000. The pommel was taken from Tipu's regalia of office and was evidently made to match the eight larger tiger's head finials which surrounded the rail of his celebrated gold throne. The throne itself was described by European visitors to Tipu's court and was clearly a thing of great wonder supported by a life-size tiger made of gold inset with rubies, emeralds and diamonds. After the siege the throne was broken into pieces by the British soldiers. The collection also includes a magnificent embroidered tent canopy stitched with tiger stripes in gold and silver thread from Tipu's throne, which is estimated at £30,000-£40,000.
The group of weaponry is highlighted by Tipu Sultan's silver-mounted flintlock sporting gun with stock carved in the form of a leaping tiger, by Asad Khan Muhammed, Mysore, South India, 1793-4. The tiger detailing even extends along the barrel of the gun which flashes with tiger stripes. It is a sensational weapon and is estimated to fetch £80,000-£120,000. Other highlights include two field cannons from Tipu's palace with barrels in the form of roaring tigers. One is estimated at £30,000-£40,000 and the other is estimated to fetch £25,000-£35,000.
Exotica: East meets West 1500-1900 - This various owner auction includes fine examples of Indian carved jade, marble and sandstone as well as Mughal and Ottoman luxury textiles that capture the mutual fascination and artistic exchange brought about by historic encounters between Europeans and Asians over four hundred years. The sale on Wednesday, May 25, 2005 will contain around 165 lots and is estimated to fetch more than £2.2 million.
One of the most important highlights in the sale is a 17th-century Mughal dagger which is estimated at £80,000-£120,000. The dagger has an agate and carved jade handle in the form of a ram, and the blade is stamped with the crown and initials of Charles I of England. Formerly in the Royal Collection this unique and fascinating object stands as testimony to the early interaction between the courts of Charles I of England and the Mughal Emperor of India in the 1630s.