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TIPU SULTAN’S MAGIC BOX
TIPU SULTAN’S MAGIC BOX
TIPU SULTAN’S MAGIC BOX
TIPU SULTAN’S MAGIC BOX
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TIPU SULTAN’S MAGIC BOX

MYSORE, SOUTH INDIA, 1780-90

Details
TIPU SULTAN’S MAGIC BOX
MYSORE, SOUTH INDIA, 1780-90
Each of the twenty sides of the gold icosahedron decorated with a numeral
2 1/8 ins. (5.5 cm.) high; 2 ¼ ins. (5.8 cm.) diam.
Provenance
Tipu Sultan of Mysore
General Robert Bell
Sir Charles Hopkinson
Hans William Sotheby
Ingram Bywater
Charles Francis Bell
Christie’s, London, 10 October 1989, lot 183
Sotheby’s, London, 25 May 2005, lot 65
Literature
Moienuddin, 2000, p.133
Jaffer 2013, pp.138-39, 190, no.62
Exhibited
The National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 1999, pp. 68, 84, pl.90, no.68
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 2014, p.48
Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2015, p.68, no.27
The Miho Museum, Koka 2016, p.145, no.109
Grand Palais, Paris 2017, pp.180-81, no.135
The Doge’s Palace, Venice 2017, p.207, no.139
The Palace Museum, Beijing 2018, pp.230-31, no.143
de Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco 2018, p. 111, no. 48

Brought to you by

Rahul Kadakia
Rahul Kadakia International Head of Jewellery

Lot Essay

Taken by General Robert Bell after Tipu Sultan’s defeat by the British at Seringapatam in May 1799, the definitive meaning of the numerals on the box has eluded scholars to date. The numerals are 11, 20, 21, 31, 41, 51, 61, 71, 81, 91, 101, 201, 202, 301, 401, 501, 601, 701, 801 and 901. It is considered most likely that they represent complex mathematical calculations based on those of the ancient Greeks (Paris 2017, p.180). The exact purpose of this unique and extraordinary box, however, remains a mystery. The box originally contained two manuscript notes, one with a diagram of the 20 sides of the box, the other stating that the box was taken from the treasury of Tipu Sultan (Beijing 2018, p.230).

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