biannual Arts of the Islamic World Sale this morning, 24 rare and rediscovered preparatory paintings depicting the renowned Battle of Pollilur in India sold to an anonymous telephone bidder for the outstanding sum of £769,250 ($1,224,184), very near the top estimate for the lot (est. £650,000-800,000).
Of the sale, Edward Gibbs, Senior Director and Head of the Middle East Department, said: Tipu Sultan was an extraordinary individual and an Indian national hero. These paintings record his finest hour when he defeated the British in the field of battle in 1780. The price achieved for this group of exceptional pictorial accounts of the Battle of Pollilur is true confirmation of their historical importance and rarity.
The collection of 24 preparatory paintings depict the famous Battle of Pollilur in India at which the East India Company army surrendered to Tipu Sultan and his father Haydar Ali and suffered a high number of casualties, representing one of the worst defeats the British suffered on the subcontinent. While the British lost this particular battle, Wellesley and the British went on to defeat Tipu Sultan at the Battle of Seringapatam on 4 May 1799 the final confrontation of the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War between the British East India Company and the Kingdom of Mysore.
The paintings were acquired by Captain John William Freese in approximately 1802. Freese was a member of the Madras Artillery and played an important role in the siege of Seringapatam in 1799; in 1802 he was appointed by General Stuart as Commissary of Stores at Seringapatam. By descent the paintings went to 6th Earl of Lanesborough (grandson of Captain Freese) and remained in the family for a further 100 years until they were sold as part of a group lot in the Swithland Hall Estate Sale in 1978 (on behalf of the 9th Earl of Lanesborough).