London: An exceptional 18th century Flintlock Sporting Gun valued at about £2 million, adorned and crafted in India for Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan, has been barred for export, to give time for a UK-based organization to obtain it for public access of a “fraught period” in the history of India-UK relations.
The decision to enforce an export ban on the gun was taken by UK Arts and Heritage Minister, Lord Stephen Parkinson, in the hope of putting the gun on public display here in UK.
The enforcement was based on the advice from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA).
History of the gun
The gun in question is a 14-bore firearm crafted between 1793 and 1794. Its purpose was to shoot birds, and it proudly displays the signature of its creator, Asad Khan Muhammed. This firearm, associated with the British colonial era, is believed to have been gifted to General Earl Cornwallis, who had previously engaged in war with Tipu Sultan from 1790 to 1792.
The firearm, measuring 138 cm in length, showcases exquisite craftsmanship with a hardwood stock adorned with silver mounts and a steel barrel meticulously chiselled and inlaid with gold and silver.
Its mechanism allows for two shots to be fired from a single barrel without the need for reloading, suggesting the possible influence of traveling French gunmakers. The court of Tipu Sultan was known for its sophistication, operating workshops that produced various forms of fine metalwork, including weaponry and ordnance that were both stylish and lethal, as described by Lord Parkinson.
Interconnected History between Britain and India
Lord Parkinson expressed that the visually captivating firearm holds significant historical value on its own, while also representing the interconnected history between Britain and India. He hopes that it can be made accessible to the widest audience possible, aiding in a deeper understanding of a challenging period that influenced both nations.
During the Anglo-Mysore Wars, Tipu Sultan, renowned as the Tiger of Mysore, courageously resisted the British East India Company and its allies. He tragically lost his life on May 4, 1799, while defending Seringapatam, his stronghold.
Various exquisite artifacts from that siege have appeared in auctions throughout the years, including his Bedchamber Sword, which recently fetched a record-breaking £14 million at Bonhams auction house in London. After Tipu Sultan’s demise, his distinct personal weapons were taken from the palace and given to prominent British military figures of that time.
Gun to be publicly displayed
Christopher Rowell who is the member of the reviewing committee, further explains Tipu Sultan’s fascination with Western technological advancements, such as rocketry, despite his alignment with France, which strained relations with Britain and led to four wars against Mysore. Notably, one of the silver mounts depicts a tiger attacking European soldiers, reminiscent of the famous “Tipu’s Tiger” exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum, as pointed out by Rowell.
Considering its aesthetic significance, potential for further research, and relevance to both British and Indian history, Lord Parkinson hopes that this exceptional firearm, made for the ill-fated ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, is to be obtained by a British institution where it can be valued and admired by all.
The export license application for the gun will undergo a deferral period until September 25. After this period, any offers received will be reviewed by the undisclosed owners of the gun.