The identity of the ‘Indian Prince’ who ordered this bizarre bed remained a mystery till 1975!
In 1882, the French Silversmiths Christofle in Paris received an anonymous order. It was for a silver bed, but the specifications were so strange that it absolutely astounded them. The order was for a bed of ‘dark wood decorated with applied sterling silver with gilded parts, monograms and arms, ornamented with four life-size bronze figures painted in flesh colour with natural hair, movable eyes and arms, holding fans and horse tails’.
After working on it for four years, the bed was ready for delivery. It was made of dark rosewood and plated with 260 kg of silver. On four sides were figurines, representing women of France, Spain, Italy and Greece. With the press of a button, through a clever mechanical winding, the figurines were able to wink and fan, while a thirty minute interlude from Gaunod’s Faust, played in the background.
The Bhawalpur Nawabs claim to trace their linage to Harun-al-Rashid the 5th Abbasid Caliph.
The order was placed in secret and its delivery was made to agents, so no one had any idea who it was made for except for the fact that it was for an Indian prince. It was only much later in 1975, that the bed was traced to Bahawalpur, Pakistan. Bahawalpur was a large princely state on the banks of Indus and is today in Pakistan. It was ruled by the Abbasi family, who claimed to be the descendants of Harun-al- Rashid, the Abbasid Caliph (786-809 CE), referred to in many of the stories from the Arabian Nights. In 1882, it was 20 year old Nawab Muhammad Bahawal Khan Abbasi V, who had ordered the bed.
In 1966, the last ruling Nawab of Bahawalpur died and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the Premier of Pakistan, ordered an inventory made of all of the Nawab of Bhawalpur’s possessions. This silver bed was found in the ‘French Bedroom’ of Sadiq Garh Palace. The palace and all its possessions were sealed due to a property dispute between the heirs of the Nawab. Sometime in the 1990s, the bed went ‘missing’ from the palace and landed up in a private collection in France.