The silver aeroplane
An Indian silver presentation document case crafted as an aeroplane by Surajmal Lallubhai & Co, Madras in circa 1934 and part of the collection of The 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma, late Patricia Edwina Victoria Mountbatten was sold at an auction by well known auction house Sotheby’s recently. The artefact sold for 10,080 GBP, well above its estimated price of 1,000 – 1,500 GBP.
The founder of the company, Surajmal Lallubhai Mehta is widely considered to be one of the pioneers of the diamond business in India, and was one of the first Palanpuris to set up a diamond firm in Mumbai. It subsequently expanded to Madras, Rangoon and Trichy with agencies in Paris and Antwerp. The Madras branch of the company, which made the silver case, was managed by Surjamal’s nephew, Jaisinghlal from 1916.
The presentation case
The aeroplane shaped presentation document case was made to hold the address to Lord Brabourne from the District Board in Bijapur. The silver case is based on a Ryan Brougham single engined four-seater, with hinged engine compartment, vacant velvet-lined interior, revolving propeller, folding wings, the latter fitted with circular formal photographic images of Lord and Lady Brabourne, and wood plinth, applied with two plaques.
One plaque has the following inscription 'Presented to His Excellency Right Honorable Lord Brabourne, G.C.I.E., M.C., Governor of Bombay by the District Local Board Bijapur on 15th August 1934,’ while the other reads, ‘Surajmal's Madras’.
Surajmal Lalllubhai outlet in Mumbai
The set also has two documents including the printed address to Lord Brabourne signed and dated 15th August 1934, and a typed instruction from the manufacturer on how to fold and unfold the wings and open the compartment, in a purple velvet-lined case with Surajmal Lallubhai labels – 'Thirty five years of progress' and a travel label inked Lady Brabourne, and printed To The Pantechnicon Belgrave Square, London, SW1.
Part of the collection inherited by Patricia Knatchbull, from her parents Lord Mountbatten and Edwina it was sold at an auction along with 350 others lots ranging in price from GBP 80 to GBP 100,000. Patricia was married to John Knatchbull, a British peer and army officer who had served at one time as ADC to Lord Mountbatten in India.
At the time the piece was manufactured, Surajmal Lallubhai & Co, besides having multiple branches in India and one in Rangoon, also enjoyed the patronage of many royal families in India and Nepal.
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