United Kingdom: Auctioneers will on December 9 auction heritage items belonging to the Sikh Kings, Maharajah Ranjit Singh and Maharajah Duleep Singh. First item under the hammer will be a velvet jacket that belonged to Maharajah Deleep Singh along with matching shoes described as ‘foliate decorated gold braid raised work on a crimson velvet ground’ Auctioneers are hoping to sell both items for Estimate £75,000-100,000. These items remained the property of the Maharajah Duleep Singh until 1893. In 1894 his executors sold Elvedon Hall and its contents to Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh.
Originally Purchased by John Bly Antiques in 1952 from Elveden Hall, Suffolk, England (the former residence of Maharajah Duleep Singh). The Bly family have been dealers in Hertfordshire, since the beginning of the 19th century. John Bly was the former chairman of the British Antique Dealers Association. He is a resident expert on BBC Television’s ‘Antiques Roadshow’ since it started in 1978. The jacket is now the Property of a Lady.
The auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull, established in Edinburgh in 1826, have researched Maharajah Duleep Singh with the assistance of renowned historian Peter Bance and written a well articulated account of the last Sikh King
Born on the 4th September 1838, during the zenith of the illustrious Sikh Kingdom, Duleep Singh, was the youngest son of the legendary Ranjit Singh the ‘Lion-of-the-Punjab’, who ruled the region by the power of his sword and with the fear of his name, a contemporary of Napoleon, who adopted a very European style for his army with an array of Europe’s distinguished Generals.
In 1843, the infant Duleep Singh was thrusted as the Sovereign of ‘Land of the Five Rivers,’ at the tender age of five years, and found himself at the head of the one of the most powerful independent Kingdoms in the Indian sub-continent and a thorn in the advancement of the British Empire.
With misleading ministers and irresponsible guardians, two wars were fought against the British, resulting in the minor Duleep Singh being separated from his mother, surrendering the famed Koh-i-Noor diamond and removed from power by the underhand-means of the East India Company.
He was effectively exiled to Britain, where he became an instant favourite of Queen Victoria and the ideal party accessory. He passed his time with the crème de la crème of Victorian high society; regularly shooting game with the Prince of Wales at his numerous Highland and English estates, and led a most extravagant and lavish lifestyle often above his means.
Duleep Singh in the height of his days as a Suffolk Squire, was an untouchable shooter, and a fashionable gent with a taste for the finer things in life, be it canvases, sculptures, gems, or women. His appearance in dazzling jewels and semi-European dress were an essential part of him being the eye-turner at every event of its day. Invitations would flood from all over Britain and in some cases Europe too, to bring a touch of exoticness to the functions.
This lot is a fine example of the richly embroidered velvets worn by the Maharajah for his formal court events, showing the high quality of workmanship fit only for an Indian Prince. A similar style jacket is pictured in a lithograph of the Maharajah from a photograph taken by Mayall in 1859.
But after trying his hand at writing a West End play, standing for Parliament, playing the field, and remonstrating with the British Empire for the shortfall of his stipend, the deposed Sovereign became disillusioned by his surroundings and sought to make a stand against the tyrannical establishment under the watchful eye and encouragement of the disaffected Fenians, the French underworld, and Tsarist Russia. His plans for resurrecting himself failed and he was tragically struck down with a stroke, dying alone and penniless in a Paris hotel room on the 22nd October 1893 far from the riches of the Punjab.
‘We would like to thank Mr Peter Bance for his assistance in the catalogue description’ write the auctioneers
Also on sale will be a portrait of Sikh King, Ranjit Singh, father of Duleep Singh.
The catalogue decribes this as ‘Gouache heightened with gold on paper, farsi inscription ‘Shabah-i Maharajah Ranjit Singh Bahadur Rajah – i Lahaur o Panjab’, translated as ‘Maharajah Ranjit Singh the warrior of Lahore and Punjab. 28cm x 14cm Estimate £8,000-12,000
Further credit goes to them for writing ‘Maharajah Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) was a Sikh ruler of the Punjab.
Born in Gujranwala in 1780, into a Sikh family. Ranjit is remembered for uniting the Punjab as a strong state and his possession of the Koh-i-Noor diamond (later gifted to Queen Victoria by Maharajah Duleep Singh). His lasting legacy was the beautification of the Harmandir Sahib, holiest site of the Sikhs.
This portrait is an accurate representation of Ranjit Singh; the French botanist Victor Jacquemont, a traveller in the Punjab from 1829 to 1832 wrote:
‘He is a thin little man with an attractive face, though he has lost an eye from small-pox which has otherwise disfigured him little. His right eye, which remains very large, his nose is fine and slightly turned up, his mouth firm, his teeth excellent. His expression shows nobility of thought, shrewdness and penetration.’
Early depictions of the Maharajah are very scarce, the earliest known painting was discovered by a research assistant at the British Museum. That painting is currently being exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in ‘The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts Exhibition’ (10 October 2009 – 17 January 2010).
Source: The Sikh Times (UK)