A Sporting Gun with an inscribed Tipu Sultan brass barrell dated AH 1223/ AD 1794-5
Lot 211
A fine Sporting Gun (bokemar) with an inscribed Tipu Sultan brass barrel South India (Seringapatam, Mysore), dated AH 1223/AD 1794-95
Sold for £24,000 (US$ 39,181) inc. premium

Lot Details
A Sporting Gun with an inscribed Tipu Sultan brass barrell dated AH 1223/ AD 1794-5
A fine Sporting Gun (bokemar) with an inscribed Tipu Sultan brass barrel
South India (Seringapatam, Mysore), dated AH 1223/AD 1794-95
the tapering barrel inscribed with a band of calligraphy and the date below a calligraphic medallion in the form of a stylised tiger head, the steel lock marked ENTY LONDON, and further decorated by a silver medallion with the monogram in copperplate script EHJ below a crest on the wood stock, with brass-tipped wood ramrod
95 cm. long

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Acquired Sotheby's, London, 22nd August 1999, lot 88.

    The Gun:

    The gun is inscribed as follows:

    The long inscription on the barrel, in Persian nasta'liq script:
    tofang-e binazir-e khosraw-e hend
    keh bashad barq-e suzan-e thani
    u tavanad sarnevesht-e khasm bardasht
    hadaf gardad agar pishani-ye u


    'The peerless gun of the King of India
    Which is like ardent lightning [with which]
    [The king] can take the fate of the adversary,
    If he chooses the forehead as target.'

    In the leaves on the left of the above inscription:
    karkhane-ye hozur
    'The Workshop of His Highness'.

    On the tiger’s head on the left of the leaves, repeated in mirror writing (negative and positive):
    asadullah al-ghalib
    'The Lion of God is Triumphant'.

    The square (often referred to as a talismanic square) on the right of the inscription is divided into four squares within and inscribed:

    h..y..d..r
    'Haydar'

    Haydar is one of the attributes of ‘Ali, as well as the name of the father of Tipu Sultan, Haidar Ali, which would indicate that this rifle came from his personal armoury.

    On the sides of the talismanic square:
    patan sana 3221 [sic]/sayyid 'ali
    'Patan [Seringapatam], the [mawludi] year 1223/1794-1795. [Made by] Sayyid ‘Ali'.

    The lock and stock were fitted to the Seringapatam barrel in London in the 19th Century. A similar gun also made by Sayyid ‘Ali in the same year is published in Robin Wigington, The Firearms of Tipu Sultan, 1783-99, 1992, cat. no. TR18, pp. 95-100. A silver mounted flintlock pistol by Sayyid ‘Ali is in Wigington, cat. no. TR40, p. 146.

    Tipu Sultan (1750-99):

    In 1782 Tipu Sahib or Tipu Sultan succeeded his father Haider ‘Ali as Sultan of Mysore. Haider ‘Ali was a soldier, who had risen through the ranks of the Mysore army to the point where he was able to establish himself as de facto ruler, usurping the brothers Nanjaraj and Devraj in 1752.

    Tipu adopted the tiger, a common symbol of kingship in India, as his own, putting it on weapons, buildings and his throne, and so earning his place in history as the ‘Tiger of Mysore’. He was said to have uttered the maxim: 'Better to live one day as a tiger than a thousand years as a sheep'.

    Tipu was an able ruler and administrator who encouraged artists, craftsmen and scholars. When the British seized his library on his death in 1799, they found 2000 volumes, including translations of European works. Under his leadership, Mysore became the richest state in India. In 1788, he instigated a series of land reforms to encourage agriculture, realizing that it was the backbone of the economy. He encouraged domestic trade and industry, built roads to improve communication, and introduced a number of social reforms.

    Tipu is better known for his struggles against the British, whom he saw as a threat to the freedom of the subcontinent. During his seventeen-year reign, he fought many battles against them, but in 1792, after a two-year war following his invasion of the state of Travancore, the British, under the leadership of Lord Cornwallis, forced him to surrender half his dominions, pay a large fine, restore all prisoners and hand over his two sons as hostages.

    Tipu Sultan finally died a hero’s death on the battlefield at Seringapatam on 4th May 1799, ending the fourth and last Mysore War. Following his death, Seringapatam was plundered wholesale by the British, including the palace, his treasury and the city in general, to such an extent that Colonel Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) commented in a letter to his brother Lord Mornington, Governor-General of Madras, that: 'Scarcely a house in the town was left unplundered'. A prize committee was set up by Major-General Harris to distribute some of the looted wealth of Tipu Sultan amongst the army and soldiers, the proportion received based on rank. This gun was most probably taken to London as part of that booty.

    Bibliography:

    Mildred Archer et al., Treasures from India: The Clive Collection at Powis Castle, London, 1987
    Mohammad Moienuddin, Sunset at Seringapatam: After the Death of Tipu Sultan, London, 2000
    Robin Wigington, The Firearms of Tipu Sultan, 1783-99, John Taylor Book Ventures, 1992.
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