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  • Rare Antique of The Nizam of Hyderabad Heads to Auction

    Published on September 23, 2010

    Austin, Texas, United States: In a Feb. 22, 1937 cover story in Time magazine, Indian prince Jah VII, Mir Osman Ali Khan, The Nizam of Hyderabad was described as the richest man in the world, with a fortune of $2 billion.

    Absolute ruler of 16 million people in the state of Hyderabad and the highest-ranking prince of India, His Exalted Highness established his own bank – giant vaults would be required to hold all that royal loot – and even issued his own currency: the Hyderabadi rupee. But far from mercenary, The Nizam was both a charitable and generous man whose financial contributions to Britain’s war effort earned him the post-World War I title of “Faithful Ally of the British Crown.”

    Within Osman Ali’s diamond-studded inner circle, there was no limit to expenditure; only the best would do for his seven wives and 42 concubines. One of them, says Austin Auction Company’s Chris Featherson, was quite likely the recipient of an extravagant furnishing that arrived recently at his company’s Texas gallery for inclusion in a Sept. 26 sale. The circa-1930 triple-mirrored mahogany dressing table with fitted key-lock safe and 30-piece Art Deco vanity set of sterling silver and cut glass was entirely custom-made by the exclusive Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Co. Ltd. of London.

    “We knew immediately from the quality of construction that it was something extraordinary, but after intensive research and consultation with an expert in India, we concluded that this dressing table was almost certainly commissioned by the prince,” said Featherston.

    The tipoff was in plain sight on every piece in the vanity set. “An Islamic star and crescent moon symbol and one of three portraits of Osman Ali appear on each of the hairbrushes, jars, bottles, nail files – even on the 8-day clock,” said Featherston. “We were able to identify the prince through photo matches. Also, in one of the portraits there’s a distinctive jeweled turban ornament that only The Nizam was allowed to wear.”

    Purchased by the present owner in the 1990s in Asia, the dressing table is expected to make $20,000 to $25,000 in Sunday’s auction. “It could go much higher, though,” Featherston said. “To the people of India, this piece could well be regarded as an important treasure. It symbolizes the grandeur of India’s royal past.”

    Online: http://www.austinauction.com

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