Tipu Sultan sword

A detail of the sword from the personal collection of Tipu Sultan.

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The sale of the swords will fund conservation works at the historic home.

The two swords comprise a sword (tulwar) and scabbard from the personal armoury of Tipu Sultan (1751-99) dated c.1796-97 which is estimated at £1.5m-£2m and a second gem-set and enamelled sword (tulwar) and scabbard, also from the armoury of Tipu Sultan, dated to the first half 18th century. This is estimated at £80,000-120,000.

Known as the ‘Tiger of Mysore’, Tipu was the ruler of the southern Indian kingdom of Mysore. He was a renowned army leader and a celebrated hero of colonial resistance but was defeated and killed at the siege of Seringapatam – the final confrontation of the fourth Anglo-Mysore War against forces from the British East India Company.

Tipu Sultan sword

A detail of the sword from the personal collection of Tipu Sultan.

Following the fall of Seringapatam in 1799, the victors created the Committee of Prize which then presented several of the most high-profile items from Tipu’s collection to senior personnel and members of the British Royal family.

Cornwallis, a former Governor-General of India, was given Tipu’s ‘war turban’ (now in the National Army Museum after it was sold by the family in 1971) and two swords.

Christie’s states two other swords, almost identical, were presented to another senior member of the East India Company and to the British monarchy. One is now in Powis Castle and the other is in the Royal Collection. The auction house believes this Cornwallis sword is the only one with a date (probably 1224 meaning 1796-97AD).

Tipu Sultan sword

A sword and scabbard from the personal collection of Tipu Sultan (1751-99).

Auction record

Another sword from Tipu’s personal collection, which had been presented to Major General David Baird, sold at a hammer price of £12m at Bonhams in May this year (see ATG no 2595) which set a record for any Islamic object sold at auction.

Known as Tipu’s bedchamber sword, including fees it sold for £14m. It had previously been offered by descendants of General Baird in September 2003 at London numismatist Dix Noonan Webb when it sold for £150,000.

The Port Eliot (and the Royal Collection and Powis sword) have differences to the Bonhams bedchamber sword including that the Port Eliot example has a knuckle-bow and tiger’s head extending onto the blade. 

Items taken by the British from Tipu have long held huge fascination among collectors. However prices have increased markedly. Collections of similar Tipu objects were sold at Sotheby’s on May 25, 2005, and in 2010, followed by Bonhams in 2015, when a collection of 30 items totalled more than £6m.

The two Cornwallis swords will be offered at part of Christie’s Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds including Rugs and Carpets auction on October 26.

Another highlight in this sale is The Baron Edmond de Rothschild ‘Bird and Palmette’ Imperial Safavid carpet (likely woven between 1565-75 in Qazvin in central Persia). It is estimated at £2m-£3m.