Lot 249
  • 249

A Tipu Sultan sword fitted with a captured English blade, Mysore, late 18th Century

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • steel and brass
comprising a bronze hilt cast in one piece in the form of a tiger head at the forte enriched with engraved bubri and punched details, tiger-head pommel with smaller tiger-heads as quillons and on knuckle-guard formed ensuite with the quillons, the long slender bi-fullered blade stamped on the back edge: 'O DEAKIN'


Sir Charles Warre Malet Bt., (1753-1815)
His 3rd son William Wyndham Malet (1803-85)
His Son Clement Malet (1845-1909)
His Daughter Cecilia (1874-1947)
Her Daughter Cecilia Joan Malet Shaw (1911-97)
Thence by descent

Catalogue Note

"Better to die like a soldier than live a miserable [life] dependent on the infidels...
I would rather live two days as a tiger, than two hundred years as a sheep."

Tipu Sultan, Tiger of Mysore (1750-1799)

The 'bubri' or tiger-stripe motif, adopted by Tipu as his personal emblem, appears multiple times on the present sword hilt and can be compared to a very small number of hilts closely linked with the ownership of Tipu Sultan. On the present lot, the significance of this symbol is heightened by the fact that the tiger-form hilt holds in its jaw a captured English blade, highlighting the dominance of the Sultan over his English enemy, as perceived by Tipu himself.

Over the course of his life, Tipu Sultan, with his father, Hyder Ali, fought four wars against the British East India Company. This blade, which was taken from a light cavalry sword made by Wooley and Deakin between 1790 and 1796, was presumably a trophy taken in action from a previous battle with the British. James Wooley of Birmingham (sword manufacturer) and Thomas Deakin also of Birmingham (cutler) became joint traders in the manufacture of sword blades and fittings in 1790. After 1796, the pattern of blade was changed, providing a terminus ante quem for the present example.

The provenance of this sword is particularly noteworthy. Sir Charles Warre Malet, of the East India Company, was made British Resident at the Court of the Peshwa in Poona in 1785. A painting by Thomas Daniell, dated 1805 in the Tate Gallery, London, pictures him on the morning of 6 August 1790 after the conclusion of an alliance with the Marathas against Tipu Sultan (see below image).

Tipu Sultan was eventually defeated during the fourth Mysore War and killed during the storming of the fortress of Seringapatam by the British in May 1799, when this sword was captured as booty.

A sword with a similar tiger-form hilt sold in these rooms on 14 April 2010, lot 185.