Sight for (My)sore eyes

Published: 23 November, 2012 08:57 IST | Amit Roy |

A royal state coach once used by the Maharaja of Mysore, is attracting attention as the centrepiece of an auction to be held tomorrow in England

A royal state coach, which was once used by Krishna Raja Wadiyar III, Maharaja of Mysore for nearly 70 years from 1799 to 1868, is set to be the centrepiece of an auction in England on Saturday, November 24.

Big deal on wheels: The royal state coach

“Although the coach was built in England in about 1825, it has been restored and is in fine working order,” said Stewart Banks, who will conduct the auction. The state coach, which has a reserve price of £70,000-£80,000 (approx Rs 70,07,438.84), is being sold by Historics, an auction house linked to Brooklands motor museum in Surrey. Surrey is a county in the South East of England. According to Banks, the seller of the state coach wishes to remain anonymous.

Glorious past
One can imagine the Maharaja (also known as Mummadi Krishna Raja Wadiyar) looking magnificent as he drove past in his state coach. He was succeeded by his grandson, Chamarajendra Wadiyar X, (1868-1894); Vani Vilas Sannidhana, who was Regent from 1894-1902; and Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV (1894-1940). It is likely all of them used the coach.

Down to earth: The steps will take you there

Historics, which specializes in selling classic and sports cars and motoring memorabilia, is also auctioning a Land Rover car that was once commissioned by the Queen on the same day. Interestingly, Land Rover is now a Tata-owned company. Also going under the hammer is a Pierce Arrow car. It was made by Pierce-Arrow, an American automobile manufacturer based in Buffalo, New York, and active from 1901 to 1938. It was best known for its expensive luxury cars. Historics normally offers such renowned marquees as Bentley, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes-Benz, Rolls-Royce, Porsche and Jaguar but this time, it is the Mysore state coach that is attracting the attention.

Designs on you: Intricate work gives it character

Differing opinions
Among Indians in the UK, there are two opposing but equally valid views on the morality of Indian treasures appearing in the UK. One is that these treasures should not have been looted or taken out illegally by the British because they were diminishing India’s heritage. The second response is, “Thank God, they did. Had they been left to the Indians they would have long since disappeared or, more likely, they would have disintegrated years ago. At least, India’s heritage is safe with the British, otherwise these objects would have fallen apart and been lost forever.”

Tata good buy? Included in the auction is a Land Rover that was commission-ed for the Queen. Land Rover is now owned by the Tatas

Work of art
It is known that the state coach was built in England to the highest standards of engineering. Historics has also released a note with additional information. Considering the state coach is almost 200 years old, it is in “remarkable condition”, says the note. “Used exclusively for the royal family of Mysore and to transport European Royalty, including Prince Charles, it is thought to have last been used at the Chamundi religious festival in 1927... Given the detailing and design throughout, it could easily be described as a work of art, as indeed, can be seen in a wall painting of it at the Mysore Palace Museum.”

Baby you can drive my car: A car called the Pierce Arrow is also on auction

The note adds, “It features an imposing and ornately finished cruciform body with a vaulted, domed roof, situated atop double elliptic springs and iron bound artillery patterned wheels. The basic colour is olive green embellished with delicate meander borders, floral and heraldic motifs and the family coat
of arms. Most of the 16 windows offer drop-down, decorated panels and shutters for privacy.” The note goes on to say, “the interior is upholstered in beige damask and the roof has decorative paintwork, carved border mouldings and finials. The exterior houses two seats that would have been used for servants and courtiers.”

Posterior please: The seats look inviting 

Potential buyers are told the carriage was “offered at auction by an Australian firm, Leonard Joel, in 1974. It is believed to have been offered by a private British collection. It was later exhibited at Sotheby’s Olympia in 1991. Acquired by the (current) vendor some two years ago and after some light restoration work, it is now available once again. An extraordinary opportunity to purchase an incredibly rare Indian artifact, one for the private collector or very much a centerpiece in a museum.”

Finer points: The coach is about the detail 

Historics’ note provides a little background on Mysore and its royal family: “Mysore is the second biggest city in the state of Karnataka; approx 140km from Bangalore and is the erstwhile capital of the Mysore Maharajas who ruled the Mysore State for several centuries.” The note adds: “It is also known as the City of Palaces and the current Mysore Palace – the fourth to occupy the same site – was designed by British architect Henry Irwin after its predecessor was destroyed in a fire in 1897. The imposing building that stands today was completed in 1912 but it is believed that a Mysore Palace was established as part of a wooden fortress by the royal family of Mysore, the Wadiyars, as early as the 14th century.” 

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