132, "A Belle Eqoque Emeral and Diamond Brooch," has an amusing Anita
Delgado connection, told by Mr. Kadakia, and expanded in Christie's
catalogue for this sale: Lot
264, "The Nizam of Hyderabad Necklace," an Antique Diamond Emerald and
Enamel Necklace, mid to late 19th century, By Repute, Nizams of
Lot 132, "A Belle Epoque Emerald and Diamond Brooch," 1910
"As Jagajit Singh of Kapurthala was among one
of the first Indian princes to patronize European jewelers, often
supplying them with precious stones from his own treasure to be set in
the latest western style, the young Anita also developed a passion
for jewelry. A jewel that was of particular imporance to the Maharaja was a
Belle Epoque emerald and diamond brooch. The brooch, Lot 132, was
designed to highlight an extraordinary crescent-shaped emerald. This
magnificent stone originally adorned the Maharaja's most prized
elephant, until Anita admired it and it was given to her on her
nineteenth birthday as an award for learning Urdu. Anita often wore the
brooch as a forehead ornament at official events and when sitting for
formal portraits..." (Christie's catalogue for this sale)
time, the romantic story of her marriage, her candid charm and her
great beauty won Anita international fame and she was often
photographed and featured in social columns and magazine
covers....Anita Delgado was also a strong philanthropic character, who
played a particularly important role in caring for the many Punjabi
troops who fought on European fields in World War I. Her marriage to
the Maharaja ended after eighteen years in 1825, and with a generous
financial settlement she returned to Europe. Her legendary jewels were
passed on to her only son, Ajit Singh (1908-1982)." (Christie's catalogue)
Not only a great love story, but one with a civilized and loving ending.
Lot 132 has an estimate of $200,000-$400,000. It sold for $471,000.
Lot 245, "The Hilt of the State Sword of Maharaja Jagajit Singh of Kapurthala (1872-1949), North India, circa 1900
Illustrated above is Lot 245, "The
Hilt of The State Sword of Maharaja Jagajit Singh of Kapurthala,
1872-1949), North India, circa 1900," a gorgeous object that is
associated more with duty than pleasure. Dagger and swords abound in
this sale, but this one is especially winsome. Lot 245 has an estimate
of $100,000-$150,000. It sold for $ 150,000.
world-famous Koh I Noor Diamond that sits at the center of the Queen
Mother's crown at the Tower of London - with which Queen Elizabeth was
crowned - is the most legendary of the diamonds known as "Golkonda,"
named for the mines that were once in the lands ruled by the equally
legendary Nizams of Hyderabad, whose name appears frequently on
gorgeous gems at this auction.
264, "The Nizam's of Hyderabad Necklace, an Antique Diamond, Emerald and
Enamel Necklace," illustrated above, was created in mid to late 19th
century. The stunning diamonds are from the Golkonda mines that were
situated in the the Nizams of Hyderabad sultanate:
a 14th-century Indian sultanate about six miles west of present-day
Hyderabad, was known for its elaborate fort and its diamond mines.
During the Renaissance, Golkonda came to be synonymous with great
wealth, and the name is still spoken with reverence by deep-pocketed
diamond traders and collectors, the kind of purists who will buy only
natural pearls, Iranian turquoise, Colombian emeralds, and natural
Burmese spinel. The Golkonda designation at an auction suggests that a
stone's provenance can be traced all the way back to those historic
mines, which the head of Christie's jewelry department, Rahul Kadakia,
calls 'the beginning of diamonds.' For 2,000 years the mines at
Golkonda were the only source of diamonds on earth (South Africa's
deposits were not discovered until the late 19th century), but
exclusivity took its toll. By 1725 the insatible appetites of Indian
maharajas and European royals had exhausted the supply. Still, the
ancient luster remains." (from "The Search for Golkonda," Town and
Country Magazine, December 12, 2012)
Lot 264 has an estimate of $1,500,000-$2,500,000. It sold for $1,935,000.
311, "The Nizam's of Hyderabad Sarpech," An Antique Diamond, Spinel,
Pearl and Enamel Sarpech, Lower Left Spinel Dated 1607-8 and 1633-34
311, "The Nizam's of Hyderabad Sarpech," illustrated above, is about as
gorgeous as it gets for this particular turban ornament. Christie's
catalogue for this sale offers valuable insights on who could wear such
Hindi for 'head feather' but is generally known as a turban ornament.
It was worn almost exclusively by the emperor, Indian princes and their
immediate family. Considered the ultimate symbol of royalty, and
sometimes used as a reward for exceptional service to the emperor, it
evolved from the tradition of pinning a heron's feather (kalgi) to the front of a turban. Even during the reign of Jahangir (1569-1627) a sarpech can be seen in most portraits when they were painted in miniature. During the reign of Shah Jehan (1592-1666), sarpechs became much more elaborate and began to be jewel encrusted. There are many references in the Shah Nama of expensive jighas being presented to noblemen and courtiers in recognition of deeds undertaken in the name of the emperor."
Lot 311 has an estimate of $1,000,000-$2,000,000. It sold for $1,155,000.
ceremonial sword of The Nizam of Hyderabad, Lot 263, illustrated above, was
created between 1880-1900, and is an instrument of war,
and state, and above all an extraordinary work of art. Lot 263, "A
Ceremonial Sword of The Nizam of Hyderabad," has an estimate of
$1,000,000-$1,500,000. It sold for $1,935,000. It is good to see that people do recognize a work of art when they see one.
Lot 149, "A Belle Epoque Diamond Jigha," 1907, and remodeled circa 1935, Property of a Royal House, Christie's Geneva
is a pity that Lot 149, A Belle Epoque Diamond Jigha," was not placed
on a turban worn by a real human being during the preview of the sale.
A magnificent photograph in Christie's catalogue shows the Maharaja
Ranjitsinhi Vishaki, Jam Sahib of Nawanagar in full ceremonial regalia
wearing a near identical version of Lot 149. The turban ornament is
"set with old baguette and pear-shaped diamonds, white gold, fitted
with plume holder on the reverse, lower portion detachable and may be
work as a brooch, 5 1/2 inches, 1907, and remodeled in 1935."
(Christie's catalogue). Never did men in jewelry look as stunning
as these maharajas. Their people thought of them as gods, so it was
their obligation to shimmer and shine like a deity. And shine they did.
Lot 149 has an estimate of $1,200,000-$2,200,000. It sold for $1,815,000.
Lot 224, "An Antique Emerald, Diamond and Pearl Sarpech, Later Adapted by Cartier, circa 1890 and in 2012
224, "An Antique Emerald, Diamond and Pearl Sarpech, Later Adapted by
Cartier," is another turban ornament, this time "set with a cushion
mixed-cut emerald, oval-shaped old-cut diamond, rose and old-cut
diamonds, pearl drop, silver-topped gold, fitted with plume holder, top
element is detachable, lower section may be worn as a bazuband (armband,
4 5/8 inches, circa 1890, with later added brooch fitting by Cartier,
Paris, 2012. The emerald is from Columbia, reknowned for this beautiful
Lot 224 has an estimate of $700,000-$1,000,000. It sold for $915,000.
Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar II of Indore in Eastern dress, with two enormous diamonds at his neck
two portraits illustrated here were a perfect foil for the gems on
display at the show, giving context to their exquisiteness. The
portrait below, of Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar II of Indore wearing
western dress was painted when the prince was 20 years old, just
before he was invested with full regal powers. The portrait above
illustrates the cover of a wonderful, lavishly illustrated book, "Made
For Maharajas: A Design Diary of Princely India," by Amir Jaffer. Note
the two huge diamonds, unadorned because they alone are so magnificent.
The maharajas and their wives commissioned some of the most exclusive
wearable, drivable and usable objects ever created - and their jewelry
was literally the crowning glory of them all, as can be seen here. The
synopsis of the book tells the story:
Indian princes of the British Raj lived lives of unparalleled opulence
and luxury. Made for Maharajas returns the readers to that resplendent
era, presenting a selection of one-of-a-kind objects crafted to order
by the outstanding European luxury goods manufacturers, fashion houses
and decorators of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Here are the
custom-designed cars, jewelry, and extraordinary objects d'art
commissioned by maharajas, nawabs, nizams and sultans from Cartier, Van
Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron, Harry Winston and others, accompanied by
anecdotes that illuminate this sumptuous way of life. Many of the
illustrations in this book have never been previously reproduced,
making this not only the first volume of its kind, but a remarkable
keepsake that may never be duplicated in our lifetime."
Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar II of Indore in western dress
The delightful dinner set for four, illustrated below, would be my take-home lot from this sale. I like to think it is possible that such finery was even taken on picnics, when princes and maharajas and their entourage dined al fresco
after a rigorous boar hunt, or a strenuous ride. The imagination runs
wild when staring at such objects in contemporary auction rooms.
349, "A Set of Rock-Crystal and Gold Cutlery," was created in the
16th-17th century or later, and has an estimate of $100,000-$150,000. It sold for $225,000.
Lot 349, "A Set of Rock-Crystal and Gold Cutlery," Sri Lanka or Goa, India, 16th-17th century or later
Lot 174, "An Antique Emerald, Diamond and Pearl Necklace," Mid to Late 19th century
174, "An Antique Emerald, Diamond and Pearl Necklace," created in the
mid to late 19th century, also features prized Columbian emeralds, and
has an estimate of $200,000-$300,000. It sold for $325,000.
Lot 330, "An Antique Diamond and Multi-Gem Sarpech," 19th century, Sirdar Charanjit Singh of Kapurthala
330, an antique diaong and multi-gem sarpech, is 19th Century and from
Sidar Charanjit Singh of Kapurthala. It has an estimate of
$80,000-$120,000. It sold for $125,000.
Lot 278, "The Baroda Pearl Canopy," Baroda, circa 1865-1870
278, "The Baroda Pearl Canopy," illustrated above, was originally
commissioned by Maharaja Khanderao Gaekwad of Baroda, and Maharani Sita
Devi of Baroda (who reigned from 1856-70) in
1865. “The Pearl Canopy of Baroda” and the equally famous “Pearl Carpet
of Baroda,” are the only two surviving pieces of an original ensemble
of five. Thousands of tiny seed pearls adorn this magnificent treasure. Lot 278 has an estimate of $800,000-$1,200,000. It sold for $2,235,000, double its high estimate.I wrote at length about this exquisite work of art for The City Review when it was sold by Sotheby's in March, 2011.
129, "An Antique Emerald and Diamond Necklace Sarpech," Early 20th
Century, Restrung at a Later Date, By Repute Nizams of Hyderabad;
129 is an antique emerald and diamond necklace Sarpech from the early
20th Century. It was restrung at a later date by Repute Nizams of
Hyderabad. It has estimate of $200,000-$400,000.
Lot 318, "A Gem Set Gold-Mounted Dagger (Jaambiyya) and Scabbard, Yemen and India, Late 19th Century, Nizams of Hyderabad
The dagger illustrated above, Lot 318, "A Gem Set God-Mounted Dagger (Jaambiyya) and Scabbard," is straight out of The Thousand and One Nights and Alladin.
It is the fantasy dagger of childhood day-dreams and make-believe. It
is an unusual combination of Persian and Indian, a gorgeous fusion of
styles. It is originally from the collection of the Nizams of Hyderabad
and has an estimate of $150,000-$200,000. It sold for $300,000.
is so much that has to be left out of a review like this, including the
stunning Lot 272, "Patiala Ruby Choker" commissioned by Maharaja
Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, one of Cartier's most important Indian
clients of the 1920s and 1930s, who often traveled to Paris with trunks
of diamonds and gemstones from his treasury for Cartier's workshops.
Created in 1931, it was restored and restrung by Cartier in 2102. Lot
272 has an estimate of $800,000-$1,200,000. It sold for $975,000.
22, "An Antique Diamond Riviere Necklace," late 19th century, from the
Nizam's of Hyderabad, (also not illustrated), has an estimate of
$1,200,000-$1,500,000. It sold for $2,415,000,
well above its estimate. It is a gorgeous necklace that literally lets
the diamonds shine, with little interference. The settings are minimal.
It could be designed today.
The sale has many exquisite
miniature paintings, including some of emperors and nobles at sport.
Falconry and "hawking" for one, was always the sport of kings, and the
Mughal emperors and their courtiers were legendary for their hunts on
horseback with the most formidable of all birds of prey - the falcon -
illustrated in numerous albums commissioned by their emperors
throughout the Mughal period and reaching far back into history.
Lot 254, "An Antique Ruby Hawking Ring," reputedly belonging to Tipu Sultan of Mysore, Mid-to Late 18th Century
falcon is invoked in Lot 254, "An Antique Ruby and Gold Hawking Ring,"
that reputedly belonged to the famous warrior and monarch, Tipu Sultan
of Mysore, - the Tiger of Mysore - created mid-to late 19th century.
Many, like Tipu Sultan, were ferocious warriors that held their own
with any in history. Tipu was a gigantic thorn in the side of the
British East India Company, refusing to bow to their dictats, and
eventually killed in battle by the joint forces of the Empire, the
Nizam of Hyderabad and the Marathas, who has also had enough of him.
Tipu waged war on many fronts, with the Marathas in particular, not
just with the British. He is a controversial figure due to his
repression of Christians and Hindus. His opinion of infidels comes
through potently in a ferocious automaton - mechanical toy - called
"Tipu's Tiger," still on view at the Victoria and Albert Museum in
London, that depicts his tiger devouring a European man! He was also a
pioneer of rocket artillery, which he fired at his opponents in every
battle - a particularly sore point with the British because of the
casualties they caused. Lot 254 has an estimate of
$60,000-$80,000. It sold for $162,500, well above its high estimate.
258, "A Group of Princes Out Hawking," (Murshidabad, Privincial Mughal,
North India), was created in the mid-eighteenth century. Christie's
catalogue offers valuable insights:
illustration of a group of royal princes out hawking finds close
comparison with the large landscape painting from Murshidabad in the
Swinton Collection, which depicts the Mughal Emperor Muhammed Shah (r.
1719-48) hunting cranes with his hawks, attributable to the artist
Chitarman, dating circa 1725-30. Both paintings illustrate the hunting
cavalcade in the foreground with the figures dressed in traditional
green hunting attire. Covered wagons drawn by bullocks on the left,
hawks attacking cranes mid-air on the right, and the background
receding with distant views of hills and an imperial entourage marching
through the elements common to both paitnings...Our painting can also
be compared to a processional scene portraying Mir Jafar Ali Khan on a
hunting expedition with his son Miran, signed by the artist Purannath
knownas Huhar II, painted Patna dating circa 1760, in the Victoria and
Albert Museum, London."
257, ""Prince Mu'Azzam Bahadur Shah and a Courtier Holding a Falcon,"
offers a more intimate view of man and nature in all its magnificence.
Created in Mughal India, in the first half of the 17th century, its
provenance includes Colonel John Murray and Hagop Kevorkian. It is a
real gem of a painting. Lot 257 has an estimate of $60,000-$80,000.It sold for $68,750.
an artist, it is wonderful to see at least some of the names of these
extraordinarly gifted Mughal artists attached to their beautiful work,
as in the case of Chitaram. It is unclear, however, if he - or
they achieved great fame and fortune in their own right like their
European counterparts, especially for portraits of royals,
important battles and always sport.
Lot 145, "Prince Salim Riding an Escaped Elephant," Mughal India, probably Allahabad, Circa 1600-1605All these magnificent objects were offered from The Al Thani Collection vaults.
Next year works of art from this extensive collection, which
includes over 6000 objects, will be shown at a new museum space in
Paris. In addition to new acquisitions, sale proceeds will support
ongoing initiatives of the Al Thani Collection Foundation, which extend
from exhibitions, publications and lectures to sponsorships of projects
at museums around the world.
review ends with a sixteenth century miniature painting from Mughal
India of no ordinary elephant - and rider. It is puzzling why the
prince depicted in "Prince Salim Riding an Escapted Elephant," would be
indulging in such a dangerous activity, but perhaps he liked a
challenge, and what better than a rebellious pachiderm?
It is quite
remarkable that this image created in "opaque pigments and gold on
paper, backed on cream card" - essentially a fragile watercolor - has
survived the passage of time with little trauma. Christie's catalogue
for this sale enlightens us about this winsome work of art:
elephant here seems to have escaped its tether, which drags benind it
across the grassy hillside. The implied wild careening of the elephant
serves to heighten the imagined bravery of the rider."
And there you have the rationale of the prince for mounting a ceature that had the power to crush him in an instant.
Lot 145 has an estimate of $40,000-$60,000. It sold for $37,500.
My only criticism of the preview of the show is that while it included two magnificent portraits of the Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar II of Indore,
there was neither a large photograph or painting of the magnificent
mahararins that wore many of these delectable objects. For this I
strongly recommend Amir Jaffer's "Made For Maharajas," which
prominently features the wife of the same maharaja. She was not only a
magnificent eye-full, she was extremely sophisticated, and appears
to have been emancipated. She was not alone among maharanis in these
traits by the turn of the century.
If this sale is a sampling of what the rest of the collection has to offer, we are in for a real treat.