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Sotheby’s (20/15/10% buyer's premium) had a trio of these in their sale in the first week of May: two near complete, one fragmentary that all came from a private English collection and they were keenly contested by Middle Eastern collectors to multiple estimate sums.

All were of similar form but were carved with a variety of decoration, including stylised foliage, palmettes and other abstracted classical motifs. The distinctive bevelled-cut form of the carving is attributed to the city of Raqqa, which was established as a new capital for Harun al-Rashid in the late 8th century, and Sotheby’s suggests that these capitals may have come from his caliphal residence. Pictured here is the most complete and most expensive version, which realised £135,000. The second, which featured the Christian symbol of a cross carved to one side, realised £60,000, and the third fragmentary example made £20,000.