'Lost' bust set to fetch up to £35,000

He was Britain's first Sikh settler, the last Maharajah of the Punjab, and one of East Anglia's most famous historical figures. Now an extremely rare and almost forgotten bust of the Maharajah Duleep Singh is set to go under the hammer at a prestigious auctioneers this spring - with a £25,000 to £35,000 price tag.

He was Britain's first Sikh settler, the last Maharajah of the Punjab, and one of East Anglia's most famous historical figures.

Now an extremely rare and almost forgotten bust of the Maharajah Duleep Singh is set to go under the hammer at a prestigious auctioneers this spring - with a £25,000 to £35,000 price tag.

The white marble effigy of the Indian Prince and Sikh hero, who made his home at Elveden, near Thetford, was created by renowned Victorian British sculptor John Gibson nearly 150 years ago.

Fine art and antique auctioneers Bonhams is now expecting huge local and international interest in the bust, which is being sold by a London based "lady of title".

The sculpture was made in Rome between 1859 and 1860 and shows the bearded Duleep Singh wearing a pearl necklace, kaftan tunic, and turban. It was last seen at Blo Norton Hall, near Diss, in the 1920s.

Claire Penhallurick, head of Indian and Islamic art at Bonhams, said it was difficult to put a price on such a "fantastic" piece.

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"It is massively rare and it is virtually unknown. There is only one reference in the National Archive where Queen Victoria mentioned the bust in a letter to her son and several experts did not know its existence. It is a reappearance of something that got lost along the way," she said.

Maharajah Duleep Singh was born in 1838 and was son of the legendary Lion of the Punjab, Maharajah Ranjit Singh, who carved out a kingdom, which is now split between India and Pakistan. At the age of 11, the young ruler of the Punjab was removed from his kingdom and the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond by the British East India Company after the Anglo-Sikh wars and was exiled to Britain.

With a sizeable pension, Duleep led the extravagant life of an Indian prince associating with the cream of Victorian society and became a favourite of Queen Victoria. In 1863, he bought Elveden Hall and its 17,000-acre estate for £105,000 where he and his wife, Bamba Muller, brought up their six children. He died alone in Paris in 1893 and was buried at Elveden church. Hundreds of Sikhs still pay an annual pilgrimage to his tomb and his bronze statue at Butten Island, Thetford.

The auction will take place at Bonhams, 101 New Bond Street, London, on April 19.