21st Jun, 2023 10:00

Silver & Objects of Vertu, including the Taylor collection of Indian colonial silver

  Lot 74

Raja of Coorg – An extremely rare set of four George III sterling silver tea cups and saucers, London 1801 by Robert, David and Samuel Hennell (reg. 5th Jan 1802)

Raja of Coorg – An extremely rare set of four George III sterling silver tea cups and saucers, London 1801 by Robert, David and Samuel Hennell (reg. 5th Jan 1802)

The saucers of dished circular form upon a collet foot with an incised edge, the teacups of everted circular form upon a similar foot, the C scroll handles engraved laurelled thumbpiece. The saucers and cups each contemporaneously engraved with the cypher of the Raja of Coorg and in English ‘Veeraa Junder Wurrtar, Raja of Coorg’, all within an oval cartouche. Each fully marked, one saucer apparently lacking maker's mark. (8)

Saucer diameter – 13.4 cm / 5.25 inches

Cup height – 4.4 cm / 1.75 inches

Weight – 970 grams / 31.9 ozt

For Dodda Vira Rajendra (or Vira Rajendra Wodeyar) the ruler of Coorg from 1780-1809.

In 1780, Linga Raja, his father and ruler of the Coorg Kingdom died while Dodda Vira Rajendra was still young. Hyder Ali (c.1720-1782), the king of Mysore saw this as an opportunity and took possession of the Coorg Kingdom until, as he said, "the princes (Dodda Vira Rajendra and his brother) would come of age". In September 1782, the princes were deported to Garuru. Enraged at the deportation of their princes, the Coorgs revolted and proclaimed independence. In December 1782, Hyder Ali died, and his son Tipu Sultan became the King. Tipu dispatched the Coorg Royal family to Periyapatna and proceeded to annex Coorg and other areas. In December 1788, Dodda Vira Rajendra escaped from Periyapatna and by 1790 had regained power in Coorg.

Dodda Vira Rajendra ousted the occupying army of Mysore from Bisli Ghat to Manantody and led plundering expeditions into the territories of the Mysore Kingdom. In retaliation, Tipu Sultan sent armies against him, led by Tipu Sultan's Generals Golam Ali and Buran-ud-Din, but were defeated by Dodda Vira Rajendra. In June 1789, he sacked and burnt the fort of Kushalanagar and in August he destroyed the fort of Beppunad. Noticing the successes of Dodda Vira Rajendra, the Government of the British East India Company offered him an alliance against Tipu Sultan in October 1790. Sir Robert Abercromby, then Governor of Bombay, met Vira Raja at Cannanore in March 1793, when proceeding from Bombay to Calcutta to take up his appointment as Commander-in-Chief of Bengal. Sir Robert honoured the Raja by drawing up a new agreement, to satisfy this gallant ally and to bind him still closer to the interests of the Company. Faced with a powerful opponent in the Kingdom of Mysore, Dodda Vira Rajendra accepted the offer and allied with the British. Dodda Vira Rajendra allowed the British Bombay Army to pass through Coorg, on its way to Srirangapatna, Tipu Sultan's capital. From this time to the end of his life, Vira Raja remained the trusty friend of the Company, and his affairs prospered. On the place where he had first met with General Abercromby on his march to Seringapatam in 1791, the Raja had founded the town of Virarajendrapet in 1792. In April 1795 he took up his residence in the new palace built at Nalknad.

The death of his Rani Mahadevamma in May 1807 threw his mind out of order, and he began to show signs of insecurity and insanity. In fits of rage, he ordered assassinations of his own officers and relatives. After his brother Lingaraja II (r.1811 - 1820) ascended to the throne instead of his daughter Devammaji, who became a notedly cruel and violent tyrant. His son Chikka Veera Rajendra, (r.1820-34: died in 1862) became the last Raja of Coorg. Following the 1834 Coorg war, an occupation advancement of some 6000 troops, by a proclamation of the Governor General, Coorg was brought directly under the Honourable East India Company on the 7th of May 1834. In 1852, Veera Raja got permission from Lord Dalhousie to proceed to England with his favourite daughter Gauramma (1841-64) for her education. Veera Raja wanted her to adopt Christian faith. In 1852, Queen Victoria who had a liking for Gauramma had her baptized by the Archbishop of Canterbury and gave the name Victoria becoming Princess Victoria Gowramma (1841-1864). In 1853 he resided at 23, Onslow-Square, Brompton, London. Under the governance of Lady Lena Login née Campbell (1820 – 1904) there was an expectation that she would be a suitable wife for Maharaja Sir Duleep Singh (1838-1893). However, Princess Victoria married Lady Login’s brother Colonel John Campbell (1810-1867), an officer in the 38th Madras Native Infantry, son of John Campbell of Kinloch (1762-1839) and had a daughter Edith Victoria Gouramma Campbell (1861-1932).

These silver cups and saucers, which would have been hallmarked between 5th Jan and 29th May 1802 are an extraordinary example of English made silver for use by an Indian Royal family. English silver tea cups do appear very rarely between 1680-1710, such as the example of London 1683 sold Christie’s New York, 10 April 2018, lot 229 ($85,000 incl. prem). However as English taste was to serve tea much hotter than consumed on the Orient, the medium of silver was not ideal for this beverage and therefore few if any are known from the reign of George III.

A portrait miniature in gold locket engraved with the cypher of the Raja of Coorg, Dodda Vira Raja attributed to Ozias Humphry (1742-1810 is in the collection of the New Orleans Musuem of Art (74.649), another portrait of Dodda Vira Raja attributed to John Smart (1741-1811) was sold Lawrences, 13 Oct 2021, lot 635 (£8000 hammer).

Provenance: purchased from J.H Bourdon-Smith, January 1966.

Sold for £7,500

Includes Buyer's Premium


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