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14. Sindh Enameled Flintlock Rifle Inscribed to Mir Ghulam'ali Khan Talpur, circa 1800

( ID: ic1263 )

Overall dimensions: 152.4 cm

Barrel length: 111.76 cm

Bore: .5 inch

Weight: 8.8 lbs

Price on request

One of the most interesting forms of Oriental guns, matchlocks and later flintlocks from the region of Sindh have a distinctive shape and often are of high quality workmanship indicative of their status in Sindhi royal culture. The finest of these guns are associated with the House of Talpur, who started a dynasty with their capital of Hyderabad in 1784, lasting through 1843. During that period, the Talpur Mirs amassed vast wealth and created large collections of arms, jewels, and other treasured objects (see Catalog Nr. 14). British visitors to the Talpur courts would specifically comment on the wide splendor of Sindhi arms. They would especially note the fine guns the Talpurs collected and commented on the curious practice of taking exceptional English locks from gifted guns, such as this example, to be remounted on Sindhi-style stocks and Persian or Indian twisted damascus barrels. T. Postans (1843), Captain in the Bombay Army and assistant to the British political agent in Sindh and Baluchistan, recounted in his travels:

The arms of Sindh are very superior to those of most parts of India, particularly the matchlock-barrels, which are twisted in the Damascus style. The nobles and chiefs procure many from Persia and Constantinople, and these are highly prized, but nearly as good can be made in the country. They are in laid with gold, and very highly finished. Some very good imitations of the European flint lock are to be met with: our guns and rifles, indeed, are only prized for this portion of their work ; the barrels are considered too slight, and incapable of sustaining the heavy charge which the Sindhian always gives his piece. The European lock is attached to the Eastern barrel: the best of Joe Manton's and Purdy's guns and rifles, of which sufficient to stock a shop have at various times been presented to the Sindhian chiefs by the British government, share this mutilating fate. The Sindh matchlock is a heavy unwieldy arm; the stock much too light for the great weight of the barrel, and curiously shaped. One of the Amirs used our improved percussion rifles, but he was an exception to the general rule, the prejudice being generally decidedly in favour of the native weapon.

Institutional collections have a number of guns similar to this example, mounted in silver, enamel, and gold often inscribed on the barrel with the name of the Mir to whom the gun belonged (see Victoria and Albert Acc. Nr. IS.143&A-1890, Metropolitan Museum Acc. Nr. 36.25.2141, 36.25.2152; National Museum of India Acc. Nr. 62.3192, where it is called a chakmaki banduk). Others can be found in the present day collection of the Talpur family of Khairpur, illustrated in Askari 1999, figs. 54-59.

This example is finely mounted in a rare style with silver mounts in blue and silver opaque enameling associated with Multan, Kangra, or Hazara (Watts 1903). In the collection of the H.H. Mir Ali Murad Khan Talpur, Khairpur there is a sword (illustrated in Askari 1999,Fig. 66 and 67) with sword mounts of identical green and blue enamel over silver indicating the use of this form of enamel on a wider variety of Sindhi arms. The gun has all of its fittings on a reddish black wood stock with a few minor old repairs.

The English-made lock is of very fine quality and dates to the period 1800-1820 and marked to Theops. Richards. Theophilus Richards (fl. 1790-1830) who had shops in London and Birmingham and was the father of the celebrated Birmingham gunsmith William Westley Richards. Most importantly, the rifle bore twisted damascus barrel is inlaid with gold throughout and inlaid in Sindhi script is “Mir Ghulam Ali Khan Talpur.” One of the earliest Mirs, Ghulam'ali Khan was one of the three younger brothers of Fath'ali Khan Talpur, who made Hyderabad his capital and ruled central Sindh jointly with his brothers. After the death of Fath'ali Khan in 1217 AH/1802 AD, the territory was divided between his son and his three brothers with Ghulam'ali being the senior. Sarkar Mir Ghulam'ali Khan Talpur reigned up until his death in 1227 AH/1811 AD. This gun, therefore, can be comfortably dated to the period of 1800-1820 with exceptional provenance to one of the most important Talpur Mirs.

The gun also has the original leather strap mounted with a matching silver-blue and green enameled buckle in the Multani style.

Provenance:

Private California collection

References:

Askari, N. (1999) Treasures of the Talpurs: Collections from the Court of Sindh. Mohatta Palace Museum: Karachi

Postans, T. (1843). Personal observations on Sindh; the manners and customs of its inhabitants; and its productive capabilities. London

Watts, Sir G. (1903). Indian art at Delhi, 1903: being the official catalogue of the Delhi exhibition, 1902-1903. Calcutta: Superintendent of Government Printing, India

 

 
 
Photo #1 of 14. Sindh Enameled Flintlock Rifle Inscribed to Mir Ghulam'ali Khan Talpur, circa 1800
Photo #2 of 14. Sindh Enameled Flintlock Rifle Inscribed to Mir Ghulam'ali Khan Talpur, circa 1800
Photo #3 of 14. Sindh Enameled Flintlock Rifle Inscribed to Mir Ghulam'ali Khan Talpur, circa 1800