ISLAMIC art dominated the London sales agenda last week with the first of the two bi-annual series of auctions devoted to this field in the capital.
Sotheby's, Christie's and Bonhams all joined in, and the final
works of art sales in the three rooms was still taking place at
Christie's South Kensington as ATG went to press. By that time the
auctions had already chalked up over £43m (hammer) in a series that
was noteworthy for featuring some major, single-owner collections
and producing several high individual prices.
Sotheby's, who fielded two auctions on April 6, were leading the
field with £31.6m.
Of this, £13.6m was contributed by a 321-lot mixed-owner session
but the larger share, £18m, was provided by the 164-lot, first part
of the collection of the late Stuart Cary Welch, a renowned
scholar, curator, art historian and lecturer, who died in 2008.
The Cary Welch collection also provided their highest price in
the form of a page from one of the most famous Persian manuscripts,
the 16th century Shahnameh created for the Safavid ruler Shah
Tamasp. This manuscript, with its extra large pages painted in the
royal workshop between 1525 and 1535, is regarded as one of the
pinnacles of manuscript illumination and when pages or folios have
come up for auction in the past they have made substantial
The 18½ x 12½in (47 x 32cm) page sold by Sotheby's last week,
shown here, depicts Faridun in the guise of a dragon testing his
sons. It was contested by no fewer than seven bidders in the room
and on the phones for almost seven minutes before the hammer fell
The price was over double the £2m-3m estimate and set a new
auction high for any Islamic work of art, beating the £5.5m paid
for a 17th century Kirman vase carpet at Christie's last year.
The mixed-owner auction that followed this was led at £4m by a
14th century Mamluk brass armorial candlestick made for Sayf al-Din
Qushtumur, major-domo of Tuquztamur al Hamawi, the Viceroy of Egypt
Christie's 401-lot Islamic work of arts sale at King Street on
March 7, which included works from the collection of the scholar
and linguist, the late Simon Digby, totalled £9.2m and was led by
another, even earlier piece of Egyptian metalwork, a 7¾in (19.5cm)
high Fatimid bronze of a gazelle dated to the late 10th/early 11th
century AD that went for £800,000.
The sale produced another strong miniature price when a 9½ x 7in
(24 x 18cm) pen and ink drawing of the Mughal Indian Emperor
Jahangir c.1620, shown with one hand resting on a lion, by the
court artist Balchand, leapfrogged its £50,000-70,000 estimate to
sell for £700,000.
Another portrait of Jahangir provided the top price at Bonhams
on April 5. This was a much larger, lifesize painting in gouache on
canvas measuring 6ft 10in x 4ft 7in (2.1 x1.4m).
It showed the Emperor seated on a throne and is attributed to
the artist Abu'l Hasan, Nadir al-Zaman and dated from AH 1026/AD
1617. This sold for £1.25m, going to a Middle Eastern museum. Their
383-lot sale of Indian and Islamic art raised a total of £2.3m.
The Islamic week also featured separate sales of rugs and
carpets and a sale of Islamic coins at specialist auctioneers
Morton and Eden, which produced another of the week's highlights -
the Umayyad gold dinar which made £3.1m, an auction record for an
Islamic coin. Click
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By Anne Crane