Bonhams to Sell Belt Buckle and Powder Horns of General Sukhotine Who Helped Murder Rasputin

. April 2, 2008

Bonhams next Indian and Islamic art sale on 10th April, the single owner, Desenfans Collection, in New Bond Street includes a number of fascinating reminders of a murder that remains something of a mystery to this day – the killing of the Russian monk, Rasputin.

Sukhotine, then a Lieutenant in the Russian army, was involved with the murder of Rasputin on 19th November 1916. Lot 127 is a large 19th Century silver-plate and gilt belt buckle from the Caucasus. The rectangular buckle, made to be detachable comes in two parts and is decorated with a geometric motif with three diamond-shaped raised bosses on each section, and an inscription : ‘Work of Haji Zakshu’ on the clasp. It is estimated to sell for £400-600.

Sukhotine’s buckle was exhibited in: L’Art Iranien dans les Collections Belges, Musée du Cinquantenaire, Brussels in 1971. This historic buckle was acquired from the private collection of General Sukhotine, by Jacques Desenfans his Belgian neighbour, whose collection of Arms and Armour is being sold by Bonhams on April 10.

Another item once owned by General Sukhotine is Lot 297, a group of three powder horns from the Caucasus made in the 18th Century, including a silver and niello powder horn with incised floral motifs and ivory neck; an ivory powder horn carved with trefoil motif, the steel mounts with gold damascening decoration; a steel powder horn with bands of gold floral decoration. This group of powder horns is estimated to sell for £1,500-2,000.

Kristina Sanne of Bonhams Indian and Islamic Department comments: “These items might not have a huge financial value, but in historic terms they are fascinating and very valuable because of their previous owner’s involvement in one of the most notorious murders of the early 20th Century.”

The mysterious monk, Grigory Efimovich Rasputin, a peasant who claimed powers of healing and prediction, had the ear of Russian Tsarina Aleksandra, wife of Tsar Nicholas II. The aristocracy could not stand a peasant in such a high position and many peasants could not stand the rumours that the tsarina was sleeping with such a scoundrel. Rasputin was seen as “the dark force” that was ruining Mother Russia.

To save the monarchy, several members of the aristocracy attempted to murder the holy man. On the night of December 16-17, 1916, they tried to kill Rasputin. The plan was simple. Yet on that fateful night, the conspirators found that Rasputin would be very difficult to kill.

The conspirators tried to poison him and when that did not appear to be working they clubbed and shot him and dropped his body into the Neva River. Three days later, the body of Rasputin, poisoned, shot four times and badly beaten, was recovered from the river and an autopsy was undertaken. The cause of death was hypothermia. His arms were found in an upright position, as if he had tried to claw his way out from under the ice. In the autopsy, it was found that he had indeed been poisoned, and that the poison alone should have been enough to kill him.

THE DAGGER OF SHAH JAHAN, THE TAJ MAHAL’S CREATOR

The star lot of this Bonhams sale is a dagger that once belonged to Shah Jahan, the Mughal Emperor (reigned 1627 –1657), who built the Taj Mahal, as a memorial to his beloved wife.

The elegant and understated personal dagger carried by Shah Jahan with its fine gold inscriptions and decoration, dated to1629-30, is expected to attract bids of around £300,000 – 500,000. The inscriptions in nasta’liq script on the blade include the Shah Jahan’s official titles, date and place of birth, and the honorific parasol (an ancient pan-Asian symbol of divinity of royalty), all state that it was the personal dagger of Shah Jahan.

In an article titled `Dagger For The Heart’, written for Bonhams Magazine, by William Dalrymple, the internationally acclaimed writer, author of The Last Mughal, City of Djinns and White Mughals, says: “The Emporer’s love of beautiful and precious objects – damascened and gold-embellished blades, enamels and hammered metals, precious lapidary, inlaid hardstones and inscribed gems – was something many visitors commented on. According to Edward Terry, the chaplain to the British ambassador, Shah Jahan was ”the greatest and richest master of precious stones that inhabits the whole earth.”

Category: Auction News

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