An extraordinary 17th century jewelled flask from the Mughal royal treasury that once belonged to Robert Clive, founder of British India, is to be auctioned for an estimated £1m.
Direct descendants of the 1st Baron Clive of Plassey, known as Clive of India, have put the vessel on the market for the first time since he acquired the jade ornament in the mid-18th century. One of only three such flasks, it is 25cm high and is decorated with bands of emeralds and ruby flowers, all set in gold. By coincidence, the other two flasks, both in the collection of the Hermitage in St Petersburg, will be on display in London at Somerset House when the auction takes place at Christie's on 27 April.
The flask was probably seized from the collection of the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah by Nadir Shah, the invading Persian monarch who looted the Mughal treasury in 1739.
At the height of Clive's career, he estimated his personal fortune as more than £400,000. He was later questioned in Parliament as to whether he had gained his fortune through questionable means. "By God, Mr Chairman, at this moment I stand astonished at my own moderation," he replied.