Lion Of Punjab Treasure Leads Bonhams Islamic And Indian Art Sale In London

Islamic and Indian Art including Sikh Treasures and Arts of the Punjab
23 Oct 2018
London, New Bond Street

A gold-thread-embroidered, velvet-clad leather quiver and bow holder almost certainly made for Maharajah Ranjit Singh, Lion of the Punjab, is among a wealth of Sikh treasures to be offered at Bonhams Islamic and Indian Art sale in London on Tuesday, 23 October. It is estimated at £80,000-120,000.

Archery played an important role in Sikh military culture. Long after bows and arrows were superseded by more modern weaponry, they retained a ceremonial and symbolic significance, especially among the nobility who would appear in public wearing an embroidered quiver at their side. It is believed that the Maharajah commissioned a quiver in 1838 to wear at the wedding of his eldest son and heir Kharak; and he appears to be wearing the one in the sale – or one extremely similar to it – in a painting of the same year by the French artist Alfred de Dreaux, now in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Ranjit Singh died in 1839, plunging the Punjab into years of instability which prompted the East India Company to invade and annex the state. At the conclusion of the First
Anglo- Sikh war in 1846, the victorious Company acquired the Royal Treasury in Lahore, including the Koh-i-Noor and the Timur Ruby which were sent back to London as gifts for Queen Victoria. At some point, the quiver passed into the hands of the First Marquess of Dalhousie, Governor General of India 1847-54. The Treasury also served as a workshop making luxury items for the Court and it seems certain that the quiver for sale was produced there.

Bonhams Head of Indian and Islamic Art, Oliver White, said, "This is a wonderful piece from the fabled Treasury of Lahore, and all the circumstantial evidence points to it being the one made in 1838 for Ranjit Singh, Lion of the Punjab – the state's greatest and most famous leader. The quiver was made purely for ceremonial purposes, and appears to have been rarely worn. As a result, it is in excellent condition."

Other highlights of the sale include:

An important Mughal emerald seal made for, and bearing the name of, Marian Hastings, estimated at £20,000-30,000. Marian Hastings was the second wife of Warren Hastings, the first Governor General of India (1773-1785). They met and fell in love during a voyage from Dover to Madras in 1769, but Marian was already married and was unable to obtain a divorce until 1777. During this period, she divided her time between her husband and Hastings. This unorthodox arrangement largely escaped censure and, before and after their marriage in both London and Calcutta they were welcomed in society, where Marian acquired a reputation for her bejewelled appearance.

The Lockwood Kipling Album, estimated at £100,000-150,000. Compiled by artist, curator and school administrator Lockwood Kipling – father of the poet and novelist, Rudyard Kipling – this collection of 120 photographs provides a fascinating insight into India, particularly the Punjab, in the last quarter of the 19th century. Kipling lived and worked in India from 1865 until his retirement in 1893, and the album was put together while he was serving as principal of the Mayo School of Art, now the National College of Arts in Lahore (1875-1893), and curator of the adjacent Lahore Museum.

An important emerald and seed-pearl necklace from the Lahore Treasury, estimated at £80,000-120,000. It was owned and worn by Jindan Kaur, the final wife of Maharajah Ranjit Singh and the only one not to commit Sati or ritual suicide on his death. As Regent to her five-year-old son Duleep, who was proclaimed Maharajah in 1843, Jindan organised armed resistance to the British invasion but was captured and imprisoned. Escaping to Kathmandu, she was kept under house arrest by the King of Nepal, before eventually moving to England where she was reunited with her son and her jewellery, including the necklace in the sale. A pair of Jindan Kaur's earrings was sold at Bonhams Islamic and Indian Art sale in April 2018 for £175,000 (estimate £20,000-30,000).

The Samsara Collection of Indian Paintings, being sold without reserve comprising 44 miniatures which cover two main schools, Pahari and Rajasthani, from the 17th to the mid-19th centuries, and also some Mughal works They depict a range of subjects from episodes in the key works of Hindu mythology – the Ramayana and the Bhagavata Purana, for example, – to depictions of court life characteristic of Rajasthani artists.

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