Tipu Sultan's 24 paintings highlight of Sotheby's sale

The paintings are estimated at 650,000-800,000 pounds.  The Battle of Pollilur, which took place Sep 10, 1780, marks its 230th anniversary this month. The battle is one of the worst defeats the British suffered on the subcontinent, with a high casualty.

The bi-annual sale will present more than 400 lots and is expected to realise in excess of 10 million pounds, a statement released by the auction house here said Monday evening.

Commenting on the Tipu Sultan paintings, Edward Gibbs, senior director and head of Sotheby's Middle East department, said: "Tipu Sultan was a remarkable figure and is regarded as a great national hero in South Asia."  "He is a hero to Muslims throughout the wider Islamic world. He was a freedom fighter and a symbol of resistance to Anglo-Saxon colonialism who inspired Mahatma Gandhi. He was also a remarkable statesman, a visionary proponent of multiculturalism and the builder of a modern multi-faith state in Mysore and Karnataka," Gibbs said.

"These paintings record Tipu's finest hour when he defeated the British oppressors in the battlefield in 1780. The Battle of Pollilur was arguably the greatest victory by Muslim forces over a Christian army since Mehmet, the conqueror, captured Constantinople in 1453, or Saladin restored Jerusalem to Islam in 1187," he added.

The paintings, which have remained in private hands since 1802, were last exhibited in 1990 in an exhibition, "Tigers round the Throne, The Court of Tipu Sultan" at the Zamana Gallery in London.  After the Battle of Pollilur, Tipu commissioned a mural to commemorate his father's victory, which was installed in the Daria Daulat palace in Seringapatam (now Srirangapatam) in 1784.

The paintings illustrate Hyder and Tipu, splendidly attired on their elephants, supported by their army and the French mercenaries.  The works were acquired by Captain John William Freese in around 1802. He was a member of the Madras Artillery and played an important role in the siege of Seringapatam in 1799.

In 1802, Freese was appointed as Commissary of Stores at Seringapatam. By descent, the paintings went to sixth Earl of Lanesborough, grandson of Captain Freese, and remained in the family for a further 100 years until these were sold as part of a group in the Swithland Hall Estate Sale in 1978 on behalf of the ninth Earl of Lanesborough.
The paintings also feature 18th-century notations which identify key figures in the battle, some of whom have never been recorded before.

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