London: A gold-thread-embroidered, velvet-clad leather bow and arrow holder made for Maharaja Ranjit Singh leads a set of Indian treasures to go under the hammer in London later this month. The exquisite quiver, believed to have been made for ceremonial purposes rather than to be used in battle by the Sikh emperor, known as the Lion of Punjab, is estimated to fetch between £80,000 and £120,000 when it comes up for auction at the Bonhams Islamic and Indian Art sale on October 23.
“This is a wonderful piece from the fabled Treasury of Lahore, and all the circumstantial evidence points to it being the one made in 1838 for Ranjit Singh, Lion of the Punjab – the state’s greatest and most famous leader,” said Oliver White, Bonhams Head of Indian and Islamic Art. “The quiver was made purely for ceremonial purposes, and appears to have been rarely worn. As a result, it is in excellent condition,” he notes. According to Bonhams historians, archery played an important role in Sikh military culture. Long after bows and arrows were superseded by more modern weaponry, they retained a ceremonial and symbolic significance, especially among the nobility who would appear in public wearing an embroidered quiver at their side.
It is believed the Maharaja commissioned a quiver in 1838 to wear at the wedding of his eldest son and heir, Kharak, and he appears to be wearing the one in the sale – or one extremely similar to it – in a painting of the same year by the French artist Alfred de Dreaux, now in the Louvre Museum in Paris, the auction house said. Ranjit Singh died in 1839, plunging the Punjab into instability which prompted the East India Company to invade and annex the state