The sword of Tipu Sultan

A majestic 18th-century weapon belonging to the ?Tiger of Mysore? will be the centre of attraction at an upcoming Sotheby?s auction, largely due to its history and provenance

It’s always a mystery how so many ancient and priceless art objects are floating around, more than enough to keep auctioneers busy and profitable. Remember the bejewelled sword of Tipu Sultan that was bought at an auction in 2004 by Vijay Mallya for the equivalent of R1.5 crore and brought back to India? Well, there?s another one that has come up for auction by Sotheby?s, currently on display in Doha, which is hosting a dual exhibition-cum-auction, one called Arts of the Islamic World and another one dedicated to Indian art titled Art of Imperial India. The actual auction takes place in London on October 9 and the items for sale offer a unique insight into Muslim history and culture, encompassing almost 1,400 years of decorative art produced in lands under Islamic patronage from Spain to India. The 281 exhibits that will be put up for sale in London next month unveil the artistic traditions of the Muslim world, from ceramics to metalwork, manuscripts, jewellery, weapons and paintings. The Indian section will include historic paintings, as well as textiles, weaponry and works of art from the courts of the Indian subcontinent. The object which will elicit the highest interest is Tipu Sultan?s sword, a majestic18th-century wea-pon with engravings and a tiger-head pommel captured from his fortress at Seringapatam, Mysore, in 1799. Sotheby?s estimate is between 80,000-1,20,000 pounds (R80.4 lakh-1.2 crore). The interest will largely be because of the earlier sword bought by Mallya. It was again put up for auction, also by Sotheby?s, in 2010 and fetched a record price of 5,05,250 pounds. History shows the existence of two swords used by Tipu Sultan; one was lost in a war with the Nairs of Travancore in which he was defeated. The Nair Maharaja gifted the famous sword to the Nawab of Arcot, from where it went to London and was bought by Mallya. A second sword, identical in design, was auctioned by the descendants of General David Baird, who led the combined forces of the British East India Company and the Nizam of Hyderabad and defeated the ?Tiger of Mysore? in the battle of Seringapatam in May 1799 in which Tipu Sultan lost his life.

While the sword will garner the most interest because of its history and provenance, the most expensive piece of Indian-made Islamic art up for auction is a solid gold diamond set and gold tray and casket (pandan) dating to the 18th century, and valued at 2,00,000-3,00,000 pounds. Other objects include a gold and enamelled diamond-set turban brooch valued at 35,000-45,000 pounds, a Mughal jade, and a gold and gem-set dagger estimated at 20,000-25,000 pounds. Items such as these are rarely seen outside museums, yet, these particular objects, despite their antiquity, are carefully preserved and in pristine condition.

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First published on: 22-09-2013 at 02:06 IST