A Falconer in European Costume (Detail), Bundi or Kotah, mid-18th century.

- On October 9 in London, Sotheby’s Middle East department held its first ever “Art of Imperial India” auction, featuring jewelled treasures from the courts of India, rare miniatures and paintings, and a selection of arms and armour related to Tipu Sultan, the infamous and eccentric 18th century ruler of Mysore. Known as the “Tiger of Mysore,” many objects created during the reign of Tipu Sultan are adorned with a fabulous tiger-stripe motif, such as the wonderfully expressive tiger head on the below sword hilt, which sold for 98,500 GBP (157,210 USD).

A Tipu Sultan sword, Mysore, late 18th century. Price realized 98,500 GBP.

Our cover lot, an exceptional 18th century diamond-set and enameled gold paandan from North India sold for a very impressive 662,500 GBP (1,055,689 USD), more than triple the low estimate, making it the top lot of the week for a decorative object. A gold and enameled diamond-set sarpeche sold for 74,500 GBP (118,905 USD), doubling its low estimate. To my delight, I found the back of the sarpeche to be as extraordinary as the front, as it is covered in delicately enameled pink lotus flowers with green leafy buds, offsetting the deep green of the pendant emeralds.

Diamond-set and enamelled paandan, North India, 18th century. Price realized: 662,500 GBP.

Gold and enamelled diamond-set sarpeche, Benares, circa 1850. Price realized: 74,500 GBP.

Our Indian miniatures and Mughal drawings also performed very well, especially the unusual 17th century Mughal work “The Rich Man and Lazurus,” a drawing after an engraving by Jan Sadeler of Jacopo Bassano’s painting, which sold for 41,250 GBP (65,981 USD). Also notable was the gorgeous 18th century Kangra painting from a Ragamala series, depicting Rama as an archer hunting deer, which sold for 22,500 GBP (35,993 USD). This painting is a favorite of mine, between the delicate composition and the sense of movement and energy conveyed by the rippling river, the bounding deer in mid-stride, the dynamic posture of Rama and the tension in his bow.  

An illustration from a Ragamala, Kangra, circa 1780-90. 
Price realized: 22,500 GBP.

Here’s to making this auction of Indian Imperial art an annual tradition!