The Tipu Sultan Collection -Islamic and Indian Arms and Armour
At Nicholas Wells Antiques Ltd., we follow the most intriguing sales of rare antique objects particularly those that tell the fascinating story of iconic historic figures like Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore (1782-1799).
This month arms and armour auctioneer Antony Cribb will feature a highly rare set of Indian and Islamic objects from the siege of Seringapatam, the site of the great and enigmatic Sultan’s defeat.
About the Tiger of Mysore
Known as the Tiger of Mysore, the Muslim ruler Tipu Sultan was born in 1750 and spent much of his reign engaged in conflict with the British. The warrior Sultan built a highly sophisticated and modern court at his Seringapatam palace and died at the hands of the British at Seringapatam, India in 1799 during the fourth war of Mysore.
Considered a ferocious leader, Tipu Sultan once noted: “I would rather live one day as a tiger than a lifetime as a sheep.” Indeed, this enigmatic and daunting ruler was considered to be East India Company’s most significant opponent. One of the Sultan’s favorite belongings was a painted wooden semi-automaton consisting of a tiger mauling a figure of a British soldier (Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London).
Tales of cruelty, inventiveness and a love of technology surround the legacy of the Sultan, making him a fascinating historic figure and by extension making this collection of remarkable items one of the most interesting sales of Mughal antiques arms and armour to date.
Technology and Warfare
Tipu was very interested in science and technology and employed French gunmakers, clockmakers and engineers and had his own bronze cannons, ammunition and musket manufactories. Many of his campaigns meant considerable defeats for the British and were often based in advanced war technology and it is thought that he introduced military rocket infantry attacks.
Images of tigers were often used by the Sultan including to embellish his ornate octagonal throne at the court, and can also be seen on period textiles, coins, uniforms, and of course the Sultan’s own weapons.
As well, the warrior Sultan often used images of tigers and stylized representations of the great beast to convey his power and ferocity. Indeed, called the first Indian Freedom Fighter by some, it is said that the Sultan was the most feared Indians in all of Britain. The Sultan’s death prompted work by various painters, playwrights and writers and the siege of Seringapatam sets the stage for the famous novel The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.
Rare and highly coveted items on offer include the Sultan’s personal items and weapons such as Tipu Sultan’s gorgeously ornate Betel Nut Casket captured at Seringapatam and his flintlock gun and bayonet with stylized tiger stripes.
As well, Cribb is offering the Sultan’s sword intricately decorated with gold inlay and Persian lettering, a shield captured at Seringapatam, the Gold East India Company Seal Ring of Thomas Hart, and gold swords with the mark of Haider Ali Khan, Tipu’s father and the previous ruler of independent Mysore.
This exceptional collection belonged to Major Thomas Hart of the East India Company and was acquired at the fall of Seringapatam in 1799. In 2015 Bonham’s sold thirty similar items at over £6m, and this sale is certain to generate substantial collector interest and prices. We highly anticipate this remarkable sale, a certain favorite for arms and armour collectors and aficionados.
If you are interested in rare historic objects like these including Mughal weapons, ornate Islamic art and antiques, we invite you to come and discover antique arms and armour items for your collection at Nicholas Wells Ltd.