Christie's to auction 17th century emerald

A 17th century emerald set in a diamond brooch, that was once the property of the first British viceroy of India Robert Clive, is being sold this September by Christie’s auctioneers in London.

Opium addict Clive, described by admirers as the founder of British India, started as a junior clerk in the East India Company but used his extraordinary ability for intrigue and cunning to elevate himself, defeat the native princes of India and establish the East India Company as a supreme power in the subcontinent.

Clive committed suicide one year after parliament in London acquitted him of charges of corruption but he remains a controversial figure.

The 1757 Battle of Plassey, when Clive defeated the army of the Nawab of Bengal, was described by Jawaharlal Nehru in his Discovery of India as a battle won by ‘promoting treason and forgery.’

Clive’s emerald with an estimated sale price of Ј650,000 to Ј850,000 is the highlight of a planned sale of Indian jewellery and other items at Christie’s.

The stone was subsequently reset by Rundell, Bridge & Rundell in 1829 for Duchess of Northumberland Charlotte Florentia.

Weighing 55.84 carats, the emerald is decorated with fine Mughal carvings of flowers on the front and back and originally belonged to a highly important member of the Mughal court.

Floral motifs were symbolic of fertility and nature and, according to Indian folklore, emeralds were thought to improve the vision of those who wore them. Mounted and secured by drill holes on each side, it is likely that this exquisite stone was originally worn as part of a major jewelled ornament such as a sarpech, a head ornament worn by Indian aristocrats.

An auction by Christie’s in 2001 resulted in a $ 2.2 million sale of a 217 carat Mughal emerald that had a prayer inscribed on it.

An auction in 1999 of a Mughal emerald, which fetched $1 million for a 161 carat stone, ended in the private collection of the ruling Sabah family of Kuwait.

Christie’s senior jewellery specialist Rahul Kakadia told rediff.com:, ”We have sold some great Indian stones, but the latest is the finest of them in terms of color and clarity.”

September’s sale will include jewellery, furniture, textiles and works of art, as well as a variety of paintings, watercolours, prints, illustrated books and photographs depicting the landscape, life and times of India during the Mughal period and British Raj.

Other highlights include paintings from The Collection of William and Mildred Archer, which provides a fascinating record of late 18th and early 19th century India.

Archer was a deputy commissioner in the Indian Colonial Service, serving in Bihar, and returned to the UK ten years before India’s Independence in 1947.

While he went on to become the keeper of the Indian section at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Mildred compiled the first two volumes of the catalogue of the British Drawings at the India Office Library and published numerous authoritative works on British and Company school art in India.

With their shared knowledge and enthusiasm, the couple acquired a unique personal collection of pictures, watercolours and printed material of India by distinguished British artists including Thomas and William Daniell, George Chinnery, Edward Lear, Sir Charles D’Oyly, William Prinsep, Emily Eden and William Hodges.

Hodges was one of the first professional artists to visit India and was the official artist on Captain Cook’s second voyage in 1725-75.

Thomas and William Daniell were two of the greatest European artists who worked on the Indian subcontinent in the 18th and 19th century.

Daniell is represented by Hill House at Bhagalpur, Bihar (estimate: Ј 40,000 to Ј 60,000) and the beautiful watercolour View of the Ganges (estimate: Ј 25,000 to Ј 35,000) and William Daniell by his Zenana Scene (estimate: Ј15,000 to Ј20,000).

The uncle-nephew team toured India on sketching tours from 1785 to 1794. Inspired by William Hodges, the Daniells ventured further than any artist and drew unrivaled views of the scenery and architecture of India.

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Published in: on June 5, 2003 at 2:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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