A spectacular collection of arms and armour once owned by Tipu Sultan, the last King of Mysore, was sold at Bonhams Islamic and Indian art sale today (21 April) for a total of more than £6million. The 30 items in the auction come from a single collection.
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 the nickname, ‘Tiger of Mysore’.
The top lot in the sale was a rare gem-set sword with tiger’s head pommel from Tipu Sultan’s royal regalia. Estimated at £60,000-80,000 it was sold for £2,154,500.
A three-pounder cannon with field carriage sold for £1,426,500 against an estimate of £40,000-60,000 and a magnificent two shot flintlock sporting gun from Tipu’s personal armoury was sold for £722,500. It had been estimated at £100,000-150,000.
The collection – which has been exhibited and published – featured sabres, gem-set trophy swords, embroidered arrow quivers, exquisite quilted helmets, blunderbusses, fowling pieces, sporting guns, pistols, and a three-pounder bronze cannon – each and every weapon a work of art in its own right.
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.
Claire Penhallurick, Head of the Indian and Islamic Department at Bonhams, said: ‘This wonderful collection of Tipu Sultan’s arms and armour was of the greatest historical significance. For collectors it was an unrivalled opportunity to acquire objects closely associated with this extraordinary, innovative man who continues to hold huge fascination across the world.”
The Islamic and Indian sale as a whole achieved £7.4 million.