Unique Bust of Maharajah Duleep Singh to be Offered in Single-lot Online Sale

London – A unique bust of Maharajah Duleep Singh (1838-93), the last ruler of the Sikh Empire, is to be offered in a single-lot online sale running from 25 January – 1 February. Carved from two sections of white marble by the Welsh sculptor John Gibson, whose Neoclassical style was developed under the renowned Antonio Canova, it was sculpted in Rome in 1859 and owned by the Maharajah until his death in 1893 upon which it passed to his children. It is estimated at £200,000-300,000.

Singh was born in 1838 in Lahore, present-day Pakistan. The son of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, he spent his early years with his mother in Jammu after the death of his father, until at the age of five he was proclaimed Maharajah. After the British declared war on the Sikhs in 1845, winning what was to become the first of two Anglo-Sikh wars, Singh's mother was exiled. Following the Second Anglo-Sikh War, Singh was deposed at the age of 10, and entrusted to the care of Dr John Login who began the process of culturally anglicising the Maharajah. Singh first arrived in England in 1854 aged 15 and was initially housed in Claridge's. Showered with affection by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, he soon became a favourite of the Queen, who sketched him playing with the royal children at Osborne.

Gibson was born near Conwy, Wales, in 1790. Initially an apprentice cabinet-maker, he arrived in Rome in 1817 to study sculpting under Canova, and went on to become a celebrated Royal Academician with numerous commissions by the Queen. The bust of Singh was created upon the prince's visit to Rome in 1859, accompanied by the Prince of Wales. Lady Login – the prince's guardian – recorded in her diary (sold by Bonhams in 2020) that Singh and Gibson dined together, and then toured the studios of Rome's principal artists. After the bust was completed, the Queen wrote to the Prince of Wales to ask Gibson to send her a cast. The bust remained in the Singh family after the Maharajah's death.

Oliver White, Head Islamic and Indian Art, commented: 'Gibson's enigmatic bust of the Maharajah encapsulates the spirit of Anglo-Indian culture nurtured by Queen Victoria during her reign, bringing together sumptuous eastern modes and western sculptural traditions. The bust generated significant personal interest from the Queen herself, who requested a cast be made, and remained treasured by the family long after Singh's death.'

25 January


NOTES FOR EDITORS

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest and most renowned auctioneers, offering fine art and antiques, motor cars and jewellery. The main salerooms are in London, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, with auctions also held in Knightsbridge, Edinburgh, Paris, San Francisco and Sydney. With a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 22 countries, Bonhams offers advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full list of forthcoming auctions, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, please visit bonhams.com.

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