Sotheby’s Arts of the Islamic World Sale Sets Record

Sotheby’s London bi-annual Arts of the Islamic World Sale, which presented for sale works of art that span from the rise of Islam in the 7th century through to the 19th century, today achieved the record total of £15,447,450 ($23,772,081), well in excess of pre-sale expectations (est. £6.3-9.1 million). The well-attended auction, which achieved sell-through rates of 93.1% by value and 72.8% by lot, was headlined by the sale of a newly discovered early 16th century Ottoman Ivory and Turquoise-Inlaid Box set with rubies, which commanded the outstanding sum of £2.39million – more than four-times its pre-sale low estimate of £500,000.

Commenting on the exceptional results achieved today, Edward Gibbs, Senior Director and Head of Sotheby’s Middle East and India department, said: “Today’s sale presented collectors and connoisseurs in the field of Islamic Art with the opportunity to acquire some truly remarkable objects of quality and rarity, many of which were museum quality pieces. The record-breaking results achieved are testament to the desirability of these works of art sold today. We are delighted with the prices achieved for the newly discovered Ottoman box and Safavid Velvet, both of which achieved sums – far in excess of their pre-sale estimates – that reflect their standing as works of the highest aesthetic and historical value.”

Top-Selling Works of Art:

• The highest price achieved in today’s auction was for a newly discovered early 16th century Ottoman Ivory and Turquoise-Inlaid box set with rubies. Three bidders, two in the saleroom and one on the telephone, competed for the work of art, which finally sold to an anonymous buyer on the telephone for the remarkable sum of £2,393,250 – more than four-times its pre-sale low estimate (est. £500,000-700,000). This unique treasure, crafted by Persian goldsmiths working for the Ottoman court for a high-ranking courtly figure, is believed to have been made to contain scales to measure the weight of gemstones and was not known to exist until its recent rediscovery.

• Continuing Sotheby’s established track record of achieving strong auction prices for Safavid velvets, today’s sale witnessed a 16th or 17th century Safavid brocaded silk and metal-thread textile panel from Persia sell for the exceptional sum of £1,609,250 – more than five times its pre-sale low estimate (est. £300,000- 500,000) – establishing the second-highest price of the auction. The velvet textiles of Safavid Persia have long been revered for their sophistication of design, their lavish use of materials (silk, often wrapped with silver and gilt foil strips) and extremely complex structure and the previously unpublished velvet sold today was believed to be from the same textile as fragments that are now in the Bargello Museum, Florence, the Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon and the M.H. de Young Museum, San Francisco.

• Part II of ‘The Tipu Sultan Collection’ presented for sale six outstanding items including weaponry and other rarities captured after the British stormed the autonomous Muslim Ruler, Tipu Sultan’s palace at Seringapatam in May 1799. The collection carried a combined estimate of £223,000-291,000 and saw all six works of art achieve a combined total of £1,079,750 – almost four times the combined pre-sale high estimate. (The first part was of ‘The Tipu Sultan Collection’, which was offered at Sotheby’s London in 2005, brought £1,239,240/$2,267,437.)

• The top-selling object of the group was a very rare sword and scabbard with Tiger-Form Hilt, from the Palace Armoury of Tipu Sultan, India, circa 1782-99 (formerly in the collection of Viscount Strathallan), which sold for £505,250, more than ten times its pre-sale low estimate (est. £50,000-70,000).

• An Extremely Rare Indian Bronze Cannon cast by Ahmad Pali, for Tipu Sultan, dated Mawludi year 1219, sold for £313,250 (est.120,000-150,000) achieving the second highest price of the group.

• A magnificent and exceptionally rare 17th century Ottoman silver-gilt cantaloupe melon-form hanging ornament, decorated with vivid Peridot gems, which was intended to hang above the throne of a royal figure also highlighted today’s auction. This remarkable artistic treasure of the Ottoman Empire sold for £601,250, more than triple its pre-sale high estimate (est. £150,000-200,000).

• Further top-selling sell lots include a rare 9th/10th century Soghdian split tapestry (kilim) coat with animal motifs from central Asia, which sold for £802,850 against an estimate of £100,000-120,000 and a rare 10th-11th century Fatimid Marble Jar-Stand (kilga) from Egypt, which sold for £457,250, almost six times its pre-sale high estimate (est. £60,000-80,000).