London – Christie’s Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds sale on 5 October, presents a wealth of over 400 rare and beautiful treasures of high quality and significant provenance which span the 9th to the 19th century. Setting the tone, the sale begins with 50 lots from the core of Dr. Mohammed Said Farsi’s classical Islamic Art collection. The group is led by an extremely rare Fatimid Egyptian carved wooden panel, circa 1150 (estimate: £400,000-600,000) and a late 18th century Indian emerald, ruby and diamond parrot (estimate: £400,000-600,000), which is one of seven spectacular Mughal and Deccani jewelled gold objets de vertu featured. Christie’s Dubai will offer the second sale of Modern Arab Art from the Farsi Collection on the 26th October.
Magnificent highlights elsewhere in the London sale range from an exceptional 17th century Safavid velvet figural panel (estimate: £800,000-1,200,000); the only known Mamluk figural ivory inlaid wooden door (estimate: £900,000-1,200,000); an exquisite 11th/ 12th century silk robe (estimate: £400,000-600,000) and a monumental 12th century Royal Seljuk carved stucco panel from Iran (estimate: £500,000-800,000). With estimates from £500 to £1.2million, the sale is expected to realise in excess of £8 million.
Dr. Mohammed Said Farsi (b.1935) was the first Lord Mayor of Jeddah and is one of the Middle East’s great patrons of the visual arts. He attributes his time in Alexandria, during the 1950s, to having had the greatest effect on forming his artistic consciousness. This is reflected in the strength of Egyptian works in the collection, particularly from the Mamluk and Fatimid periods. A very rare carved interlace wood panel provides a fine example of Fatimid wood carving in the 12th century and illustrates the tradition of a geometric motif – comprising polygonal and star shaped panels – which began in the Fatimid period and developed in complexity over the next two centuries (estimate: £400,000-600,000).
The collection boasts a superb array of metal-work including an extraordinary Mosul silver-inlaid brass jewellery casket from the 13th century, which is the only known example with a combination lock in the lid. A 14th century Siirt silver and gold-inlaid bronze candlestick from East Anatolia (estimate: £120,000-180,000) is comparable to a candlestick in the Museo di Palazzo Venezia, which was previously in the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Vulturella presso Tivoli. A fine Mamluk silver and gold-inlaid candlestick dating to 1342 is also notable as it was made for Sultan Ahmed whose reign lasted for just a matter of months (estimate: £40,000-60,000).
Drawing the collection to a dramatic close are seven jeweled gold objets de vertu, which are, by repute, originally from the family of the Nizam of Hyderabad. The most impressive of all is an exceptional late 18th century Mughal emerald, ruby and diamond-inset enamelled gold – parrot from India (estimate: £400,000-600,000). During the reigns of the great Mughal emperors, the classical imperial Mughal jewellery style developed and fused with indigenous traditions to produce a distinct style of jewellery and jewelled objects. A love for these glittering pieces was driven by demand from the courts, not just of the Mughals, but also of the Deccani sultans and smaller princedoms. A fine Mughal gem-set silver and gold rosewater sprinkler dating to north India in the 17th/18th century (estimate: £80,000-120,000) and a late 19th century jewel-encrusted gold-mounted dagger from Yemen and India (estimate: £30,000-50,000) are other examples.
Elsewhere in the sale, three outstanding museum quality highlights – each executed in very different periods, media and styles – come in the form of two panels and a door. Dating to the 13th century, the only known Mamluk figural ivory inlaid wooden door is both academically significant and aesthetically beautiful; conveying a sense of movement (estimate: £900,000-1,200,000). A monumental Royal Seljuk carved stucco panel, measuring 5ft high and 11 ft wide, provides evocative depictions of 12th century Iranian daily life, courtly pleasures, royal protocol and musicians (estimate: £500,000-800,000). This was bought from a French collection in the 1930s by the present owner’s grandfather. An exceptional large Safavid figural velvet panel, from Iran in the 17th century, is offered from the property of a European collector (estimate: £800,000-1,200,000). Very few large figural velvets exist and the present lot is part of small number which depict substantial, rather than willowy, figures. Epitomising Safavid textile expertise at its best, the wide range of colours and complex design thematically illustrate a synergy between east and west, with the Christian mother and child figures and the overlaid cypress and pomegranate tree, which are part of early Safavid decorative arts found in carpet and book binding design.
Another very important textile is a rare 11th/12th century silk robe from central Asia (estimate: £400,000-600,000). This beautiful robe is in astonishing condition. An early example of Islamic textile production, the robe’s design is very unusual as it was conceived as an overall pattern, rather than as individual roundels. A rare solid gold bracelet, engraved with the name of the name of the last Ghaznavid ruler, Kusraw Malik, dating to Afghanistan between 1160 and 1186 (estimate: £250,000-350,000) is a further impressive item.
A unique masterpiece of Islamic ceramics is offered in the form of an outstanding, incomplete, 13th century Seljuk jar with polychrome enameled decoration (mina’i) from central Iran (estimate: £300,000-500,000). Having been purchased by the previous owner’s family in Iran and exported in April 1932, its monumental size and highly accomplished figural decoration display complete technical prowess and demonstrate considerable technical sophistication. With its voluptuously curved baluster body, this is one of the best illustrations of the mastery reached by Iranian potters before the Mongol invasions.
The Islamic paintings featured include two wonderful historically significant portraits which date to 1625, which are the earliest known western portraits of Iranians: Sinal Khan by Esaye le Gillion, 1604-05 (estimate: £40,000-50,000) and Mehdi Quli Beg, by le Gilon, 1604-5 (estimate: £35,000-45,000). Miniatures range from a superb Safavid depiction of a battle between the army of Shah Ima’il and the Aq Qoyunlu (estimate: £12,000-18,000), which is thought to have been removed long ago from a manuscript Christie’s sold in 1999 (estimate: £12,000-18,000), to a charming 17th century Safavid miniature of a youth with a falcon which is offered from the property of the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, to benefit its acquisitions fund (estimate: £3,000-5,000).
Drawing the Islamic section to a close, notable Ottoman lots range from a wonderful 19th century polychrome painted and relief carved Damascus room from Syria (estimate: £40,000-60,000) to an early 16th century Qur’an, which is an example from the Royal workshops with high quality illumination and original binding, from Ottoman Turkey (estimate: £30,000-50,000). A magnificent Ottoman gilt-copper (tombak) ewer, complete with the original chains linking the stopper and the lid to the body, which dates to the second half the 18th century, illustrates the Ottoman baroque style which began during the reign of Ahmed III (1703-1730) (estimate: £20,000-30,000). A late 19th century large Kutahya tile depicting the royal relief of Ivriz provides a delightful quirky example of later Ottoman art (estimate: £5,000-7,000).
Anglo-Indian works of art are led by an album of botanical paintings showing north Indian plants (estimate: £60,000-80,000). Though executed in India by Indian artists around 1810, this very elegant album fits in to the late 16th century European tradition of Florilegia. Further highlights include a magnificent 16th century Mughal miniature of the Annunciation (estimate: £50,000-70,000) and from the 19th century two miniatures of racehorses and grooms signed Sheikh Muhammad Amir of Karraya, Calcutta (estimate: £15,000-20,000 and £20,000-30,000). All of these works reflect the fascinating fusion of eastern and western cultures, society and religion. Games boards were amongst the first articles encountered by the Europeans in India which they could use, a superb example is a 16th century fine micro-mosaic ivory and ebony inlaid games board from Gujarat (estimate: £50,000-70,000); it has the lattice for chess on one side and divisions for trik-trak, a precursor to backgammon, on the other. Less whimsical, but equally masterful examples of craftsmanship include a very realistic Moghul Ram’s-headed jade-hilted dagger, from the mid-17th century (estimate: £30,000-40,000) and a fine horse-headed jade-hilted dagger from the same period (estimate: £15,000-20,000).
Indian & Islamic Works of Art and Textiles ~ South Kensington ~ 8 October
Christie’s South Kensington auction of Indian & Islamic Works of Art and Textiles will offer over 500 lots with estimates ranging from £500 to £6,000. The sale will feature the final 100 lots of Ottoman, Safavid and Qajar manuscripts, calligraphies and miniatures from the revered collection of the late Djafar Ghazi. This collection was built over a period of 60 years and has captured many people’s imaginations, as demonstrated by the amazing results in Christie’s recent sales. In addition, a superb collection of Indian miniatures, a group of Qajar and Ottoman weapons from the 17th-19th centuries and medieval pottery and tiles of incredible quality will be offered. Further highlights include a 19th century Islamic style Lobmeyer enameled glass flask (estimate: £1,000-1,200), a 13th century Iranian turquoise glazed moulded pottery jug (estimate: £2,000-3,000) and a late 18th century Qajar Lacquer papier-mache card box and 20 playing cards (estimate: £1,200-1,500), illustrated left. Historically, card games flourished as a leisure pastime in Persia, even though it was considered a form of gambling and was forbidden in certain parts of the country, which adds to the rarity and uniqueness of this lot.
Image: Mamluk figural ivory inlaid wooden door. Estimate: £900,000-1,200,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2010