Art collectors can sit up and take note. An item of great historical significance — one of the three surviving gold tiger head finials that adorned the ruler Tipu Sultan’s elaborate throne — will soon be auctioned online. There’s even an eyewitness account of the battle of Seringapatam, which led to the final destruction of the ruler and his forces. Addressed to Earl Macartney and written in a copperplate script in 1799, it’s a 50-page account by Benjamin Sydenham, an eye-witness.
The first finial sold for £389,600 (approx Rs 28 million) last year. It had lain in an English castle for about 100 years and then made its way to a bank vault.
The second gem-encrusted gold finial from the octagonal golden throne of Tipu Sultan will be sold at Bonhams New Bond Street, London, on October 7, in the Indian and Islamic Art sale. Both were at Bonhams recently, reuniting the two parts of the ruler’s fabled throne after 200 years.
The one on sale is among the most important Tipu items to have ever appeared at auction. It was in the possession of Scottish lieutenant general Sir Thomas Bowser and his family for the last 200 years before it reached the present owner by direct descent.
Kristina Sanne, head of the Indian and Islamic department at Bonhams, says, “It’s a massive call to put this finial up on sale. You’ve got to research the background well. In this case, the family had documents to authenticate the items. They even had an inventory of pieces in a trunk, which includes some rare pieces.”
More for sale
The Indian and Islamic Art sale features about 450 lots, where Tipu Sultan’s finial is touted to be the highlight. “We get a lot of Indian buyers; new buyers will need to register in advance,” Sanne informs. Other items on sale include a marble statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and a 200-year-old sword and a gold sword holder by the same Scottish family, and several Indian miniatures in mirror, glass and metal work from private collectors in the UK and Europe.