Baroda: royal canopy, carpet

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Baroda: royal canopy, carpet

The Times of India

Rare Baroda canopy may fetch $5 million

TNN | Mar 10, 2011, 03.17am IST

NEW DELHI: A rare jewelled masterpiece that was once part of the Baroda royal collection is set to go under the hammer on March 24. The centrepiece of a sale in New York, the Pearl Canopy of Baroda is expected to sell for as much as $5 million.

Embellished with 500,000 Basra pearls and numerous other precious stones, the piece does have the razzle dazzle to attract buyers. Two years ago, the Pearl Carpet of Baroda, also part of Maharaja Khande Rao's collection, sold for over $5 million while the mothball-sized Baroda Pearls fetched a record $7.1 million in New York in 2007.

This time, too, the auctioneers, Sothebys, are hoping the canopy will beat estimates. "This piece is a continuation of the golden age of Indian art from the Mughal period, with Persian influences," said Mary Jo Otsea, worldwide director of Sotheby's carpet department.

Crafted in 1865, the canopy has a tumultuous story behind it. In the early 1860s, Maharaja Khande Rao of Baroda had a desire to offer a priceless pearl ensemble to the shrine for the Prophet in Medina. But he died before the gift was made. The jewelled pieces were retained as a state treasure. In 1943, the flamboyant Sita Devi became the second wife of the then Maharaja of Baroda Pratap Sinh Gaekwad. She moved the fabulous collection of the House of Baroda to Europe.

After her divorce, she stashed it away in a bank vault in Geneva. She died in the early 1980s, and it is not known when the carpet changed hands. The canopy had not been seen for more than 100 years until it was included in an exhibit at Victoria

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