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Almost certainly made for Maharaja Ranjit Singh (reg. 1801-1839) on the occasion of the wedding of Khurak Singh in 1838.
Lord Dalhousie Collection, acquired after 1850.
Dowell Fine Art Galleries, No.18 George Street, Edinburgh, The Dalhousie Collection, 7th-8th December, 1898. Acquired by Mr John Baird, Husband of Lord Dalhousie's granddaughter, Lady Susan Ramsay.
Sotheby's, Colstoun, Haddington, East Lothian, 21st-22nd May, 1990, lot 30.
Private UK Collection.
The treaty of Lahore in 1846 ended the first Anglo-Sikh war and brought the entire contents of the Sikh Royal treasury or toshkhana into the hands of the East India Company. Despite the years of upheaval following the death of Ranjit Singh in 1839 it seems that the treasury was still very much intact at this point, and this is illustrated by August Schoefft's portrait of Maharajah Sher Singh executed in about 1850 in which he is depicted wearing an impressive array of jewels including a bazuband set with the Koh-i-nur diamond. (Illustrated in D. Toor, In Pursuit of Empire: Treasures from the Toor Collection of Sikh Art, London 2018, pp. 138-141). The toshkhana was not only the treasury but also a workshop with jewellers and craftsmen producing luxury items for the court. The celebrated Golden Throne in the Victoria & Albert Museum (collection no. 2518 IS) was produced there circa 1818 and it is believed that the present lot, as well as a matching powder horn now in the Royal Armouries (collection no. XXVIF.38; see Sikh treasures and Arts of the Punjab catalogue, fig. 2), were also produced in the toshkhana by order of Ranjit Singh. The provenance for these two pieces can be reconstructed with a strong degree of certainty by considering two inventory lists produced in the aftermath of the Anglo-Sikh war.
Public interest at home in Britain had been piqued by the war, and in June 1849 The Marquis of Anglesey, as the Master of Ordnance, wrote to the board of the East India Company requesting that examples of oriental armour 'particularly Afghan and Sikh' be sent to the National Armoury at the Tower of London to be exhibited. In the same year Dr John Login, the first Governor of the Citadel of Lahore, began to draw up a list of the contents of the toshkhana. His inventory of arms and armour is divided into sections listing those worn by particular 'Maharajas and sirdars' of the Punjab. The only mention of a quiver and powder horn in his list are those described as belonging to Ranjit Singh:
A bow and quiver of arrows, 2: Rs 448
Powder horn with belt and pouches: Rs 252
(Quoted in Thom Richardson (ed.), East Meets West: Diplomatic Gifts of Arms and Armour between Europe and Asia, Appendix I: Dr Login's List, p. 134)
The connection with Ranjit Singh is supported by a second inventory compiled by the Governor General, James, Earl of Dalhousie in 1850, a copy of which is now in the British Library (see Sikh treasures and Arts of the Punjab catalogue, fig. 3). The quiver and powder flask appear once again as follows:
4. Maharaja Ranjeet Sing, sword. Presented by Jaswant Ray Holkar on his
flight into the Lahore territory after having been overthrown and pursued by British forces
under Lord Lake.
5. Ditto, bow. Purchased from Kurreewalla, Lahore.
6. Ditto, quiver of arrows. Made to order in the Toshikhana.
7. Ditto, powder horn. It was made in the Toshikhana on the occasion of Maharaja Kurruck Sing's Marriage.
Following direct comparison of the powder flask and quiver at the Royal Armoury in Leeds, it is clear that they were created in the same workshop as part of the same set due to the similarities in the design, the fabric and the iron work of the buckles. Furthermore, the similarity between the present lot and a chevron design quiver which Ranjit Singh wears in a portrait by Alfred de Dreux painted in 1838, the same year as Kurruck Singh's marriage, provides further compelling evidence (see Sikh treasures and Arts of the Punjab catalogue, fig. 1). The portrait, which is now in the Louvre, was commissioned by Ranjit Singh's French General Jean-Baptiste Ventura and presented to King Louis-Philippe of France.
The small size of the quiver is also a pointer towards Ranjit Singh's ownership. A very similar quiver in the Furisiyya Collection is 7.5 cm longer than the present lot (see Bashir Mohamed, The Arts of the Muslim Knight, 2007, p. 389, no. 365, Inv. R-774). As the maharaja was known to be a small man and was described by Sir Lepel Griffin as 'short of stature' in spite of being 'the ideal beau of a soldier, strong, spare active, courageous and enduring', it seems likely that a quiver made to order for him would be smaller than average. The fact that there is very little wear to both the quiver and the powder horn would also suggest that they were made for ceremonial purposes and were little used, having been produced just one year before Ranjit Singh's death in 1839.
The eventual gift from the East India Company to the Tower of London in 1853 comprised nearly two hundred items and although no documentation relating to its arrival remains, we do know that many pieces were on display in the new Asiatic Room in the White Tower by 1857. Others ended up in the Royal Collection and The Museum of the East India Company (absorbed by the V&A in 1879) but unfortunately no final list exists documenting the eventual destination of the various pieces. However, by a process of elimination between Logan's and Dalhousie's lists and the pieces known to have formed part of the gift, it is possible to identify the Royal Armoury powder flask and the present lot with those listed in both of the annexation inventories and therefore to trace the provenance of the pieces to Ranjit Singh. (For a further discussion see Thom Richardson (ed.), East Meets West, diplomatic Gifts of Arms and Armour between Europe and Asia, pp. 112-113).
Although it is uncertain how the quiver came to be separated from the Tower gift, it is reasonable to assume that Dalhousie claimed it as part of his share of the booty. Despite his reputation as a man with little time for anything other than affairs of state, it is clear that he took an interest in acquiring souvenirs of his involvement in the annexation of the Punjab, having had a facsimile copy of Ranjit Singh's throne made for himself (see Sotheby's, Colstoun, 21st - 22nd May, 1990, lot 95). It is known that Dalhousie's collection was once carefully labelled but sadly the inventories are now lost and the tantalising survival of only a part of Dalhousie's original collection label and wax seal on the quiver provides no further clues.