A spectacular collection of jewels, clothing, weaponry and other valuables once owned by the legendary Indian ruler Tipu Sultan will be sold at a London auction next week.
The items are part of the Islamic and Indian Art Auction at Bonhams, London and are expected to fetch upwards of £1 million.
The treasures are part of a single collection once owned by British Tipu Sultan expert Robin Wigington who amassed the items over a thirty-year period.
According to a Bonhams expert, Wigington was “obsessed” with Tipu and was considered an expert on the man – so much so that he converted his home in Stratford Upon Avon into a museum dedicated to the Sultan.
The collection includes sabres, gem-set trophy swords, embroidered arrow quivers, exquisite quilted helmets, blunderbusses, fowling pieces, sporting guns, pistols, three-pounder bronze cannon as well as a exquisitely jewelled throne used by the Sultan.
A sword hilt set with green and purple stones.
The items were looted by troops commanded by the Duke of Wellington who defeated Tipu Sultan in Mysore in 1799.
The Tiger of Mysore – who famously declared ‘I would rather live one day as a tiger than a lifetime as a sheep’ – was the East India Company’s most tenacious enemy, fighting them until his death in 1799. He was a fanatical and relentless warrior, and vowed not to sit on his elaborate throne until he had vanquished the British.
He is widely considered one of the most accomplished and daring rulers of pre-colonial India, having devised campaigns which inflicted humiliating defeats on the British.
A quilted helmet.
These campaigns were often based on the latest technology in weaponry, and it is believed that he introduced the military rocket for attacks on enemy infantry, a tactic which won him numerous victories over the seemingly invincible British armies.
In Bonhams Magazine, William Dalrymple recounted the emperor’s final defeat at the hands of the British: “When the British finally captured Tipu’s capital city of Seringapatam in 1799, the conquerors were astonished at the magnificence of the jewels and art objects that Tipu had collected. According to Major Price, who was responsible for collecting and dividing the booty: ‘The wealth of the palace, which was sufficiently dazzling to the eyes of many who were much more habituated to the sight of horded treasure than we were, seemed, at that moment, to surpass all estimates.’”
Tipu’s personal motif was the tiger, and he adorned both objects of art and instruments of war with images of the animal and with the tiger-stripe design, earning his famous nickname.
– The Bonhams Islamic and Indian Art Auction takes place at Bonhams New Bond Street on 21 April.