Paintings of Tipu's victory over British to be auctioned

Expected to fetch between £650,000 to £800,000 at the 'Arts of the Islamic World' sale on October 6, the set of paintings made of ink and gouche on rice-paper backed with cotton mostly depict the Battle of Pollilur fought in 1780.

A 17th century Mughal painted and dyed floorspread from Golconda, measuring 500 cm square, is also on offer among other Mughal and Deccan linked objects at the sale.
The floorspread, which was once in the collection of the Amber Palace, Jaipur, is estimated to sell for £100,000 to £150,000.

The next day, a second gem-encrusted gold finial from the octagonal golden throne of Tipu will be sold at Bonhams at the Indian and Islamic Art sale.
This is the second such finial to pass through Bonhams Bond Street saleroom in 18 months.

The first finial sold for £389,600 on April 2, 2009.
Both were at Bonhams recently, reuniting two parts of this fabled throne after 200 years, and offering Tipu scholars an extraordinary opportunity to appreciate the workmanship of these objects.

The Tipu paintings, which were in Srirangapatanam until 1799 when Tipu Sultan was killed, are likely to have been produced by an Indian artist after the battle, which was fought during the Second Anglo-Mysore War (1780-1784).
Tipu's father Haider Ali was killed in 1782 and Tipu took over as the Nizam of Mysore and ruled for 17 years till his death in 1799.

After the battle, Tipu had commissioned a mural to commemorate his father's victory and it was installed in the Daria Daulat Palace in Srirangapatanam in 1784.

The mural and the set of paintings to be auctioned depict Tipu and Haider Ali, wearing royal garments, riding elephants and surrounded by their army - French mercenaries and the Maratha troops - to go and face the British Army, which was crushed in the battle, one of the worst defeats of the East India Company at the time.

The paintings fell into British hands when Colonel John William Freese acquired them after his appointment as commissary of stores at Srirangapatanam in 1802.
His descendant, the 9th Earl of Lanesborough, sold the paintings in 1978 to a UK collector, who in turn sold the paintings in 1981 to the current owner, who remains unidentified.

In 1983, the paintings were on exhibition for six months at the Tower House, Kensington, home of rock star Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin.

There are also notations on the paintings, suspected to have been made by a British officer who was either at the battle or had direct knowledge of the sequence of events.
The paintings were probably originally part of two large scrolls approximately 7 feet by 30 feet and represent three-fourths of the original cartoon.

Originally attributed to post-1840 by their military costumes, the paintings have undergone extensive tests and further research which indicate that the English military uniforms, as they now appear, are misleading and the actual date of production is likely to have been in a period shortly after 1780.

Tipu Sultan was the East India Company's most tenacious enemy.
A fanatical and relentless warrior, he vowed not to mount his elaborate throne until he had vanquished the British.

Tipu is considered to be one of the most accomplished and daring rulers of pre-colonial India, devising campaigns which inflicted humiliating defeats on the British and reversing Western weapons and techniques against their inventors.

It is believed that he introduced the military rocket to attack enemy infantry, a tactic that helped him with a number of victories over British armies, undercutting the view that they were invincible.

In Tipu's own words, he said: "I would rather live one day as a tiger than a lifetime as a sheep".

He customised objects of art and instruments of warfare with tiger-stripe motifs, from his throne to canons and blunderbusses.
When travelling away from his kingdom, he even wore a coat with the motif.
The tiger finial now on sale at Bonhams is one of the three surviving tiger head finials that adorned Tipu's elaborate throne.

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