Selim III’s gift to the Tiger of Mysore

Looted booty from India at Bonhams

By Roger Williams | April 16, 2015


A beautiful Ottoman horse’s bridle of red morocco and gilt brass is part of the spring sale of Islamic and Indian Art at Bonhams New Bond Street on April 21. It was a gift from Ottoman Sultan Selim III to the brilliant Tipu Sultan, ‘the Tiger of Mysore’. The sale deals primarily with an exceptionally large collection from Seringapatam, Tipu’s stronghold, which was looted by the British in 1799 after a siege in which Tipu was killed. The bridle had been given to Tipu in return for gifts that were sent with a 900-strong  mission to gain Ottoman support against the British in India. This glittering caravan  set out from Mysore on November 17, 1785, travelling via Egypt and not arriving in Constantinople until September 25, 1787, and must have been quite a sight. Among Tipu's gifts to the Sultan were said to be a pair of birds that spoke Hindi.

The bridle was in the possession of Sir Stapleton Cotton, 1st Viscount Combermere, who at the age of 21 as a Lt Colonel, led the 25th Light Dragoons at Seringapatam, and is similar to bridles captured from the Ottomans at the Siege of Vienna. With breastplate and crupper, it is expected to fetch £30–40,000.

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