A spectacular collection of arms and armour once owned by Tipu Sultan, the last King of Mysore, will be sold by Bonhams
as part of the Islamic and Indian art auction at Bonhams New Bond Street on 21 April 2015. All the lots in the auction come from a single collection.
The collection which has been exhibited and published features 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.
Tipus 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. As Robin Wigington notes in The Firearms of Tipu Sultan 1783-1799, the incorporation of the bubri (the tiger stripe), is what makes Tipus firearms unique. Although the tiger stripe as an art form was widely used throughout the Islamic world, and notably in India from early times, Tipus particular pattern of stripe was very much his own.
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 Companys 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. 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 emperors final defeat at the hands of the British: When the British finally captured Tipus 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.