This week, art connoisseurs got a chance to discover some historic masterpieces from around the world — rugs, ceramics, metalwork, carpets, manuscripts and paintings — at auctions by Sotheby’s and Christie’s. The Sotheby’s auction titled ‘Arts of the Islamic World & India’ fetched a total sale of Rs 127 crore (£12,515,502).
At Sotheby’s, the ‘Islamic Week’ is held biannually in April and October, and has a spectrum of classical arts from the Middle East and wider Islamic world, featuring a range of manuscripts in Arabic, Persian and Turkish, as well as arms and armour, glass, jewellery and many other decorative objects.
Christie’s London auctioned a group of bejewelled Mughal treasures showcasing marvels from Indian courts, including a Timurid artistic production and a Qajar oil painting by celebrated artist Muhammad Baqir, Indian manuscripts and paintings from private collections, as well as some Iznik pottery.
At Christie’s, two 18th century rugs woven in the Deccan in India were prominent attractions.
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These rugs were traded with Japan where they were highly prized and used in the annual celebration of the traditional Kyoto Festival.
Of the 96 antiques at Christie’s, a rare Anatolian ‘Phoenix in Octagon’ rug woven in the late 15th/early 16th century is the only known carpet to survive bearing the mythical figure of the Phoenix.
Louise Broadhurst, specialist and Christie’s international head of rugs and carpets says, “The theme of early eastern carpets that appear in the paintings of the early Renaissance and later Old Masters is a narrative that helps us contextualise these precious works of art, and appreciate them through the eyes of our predecessors.”
Sotheby’s showcased a folio of the Shahnameh manuscript made for Shah Tahmasp of Persia, which is universally acknowledged as one of the supreme illustrated manuscripts of any period or culture and among the greatest works of art in the world. This was part of the top lot sold for Rs 49 crore (£4,875,800).
The Shahnameh or ‘Book of Kings’ is the Persian national epic, telling the history and legends of Persia from prehistoric times down to the end of the Sassanian dynasty in the seventh century AD.
The Christie’s auction titled ‘The Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds Including Oriental Rugs and Carpets’ fetched a total sale of Rs 86.73 crore (GBP 8,496,838).
A full-page Timurid painting titled ‘Baysunghur In The Guise Of Solomon With The Queen Of Sheba’ was sold at a price of Rs 7.97 crore (GBP 781,200).
The painting has opaque pigments heightened with gold on paper, within gold and polychrome rules, and the margins are illuminated with gold floral scrolls.
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It is likely that this painting depicts King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, which was a popular subject in Persian painting.
The face of King Solomon bears a very strong likeness to that of the Emperor Baysunghur, who was a great patron of the arts and commissioned a number of portraits of himself, including one in the Gulistan Shahnama of Baysunghur, dated 1430. Another impressive gem-set jade hilted dagger from north India or Deccan, circa 1700-1750 was sold at Rs 9.65 crore (GBP 945,000).
The double-edged curved steel blade with reinforced tip has emeralds and rubies in gold settings.
The Mughals were important patrons of the arts and the jade-hilted dagger is a prime example of the refinement and beauty of later Mughal patronage.
One more beautiful gem-set and enamelled silver hookah set probably from the Mughal era in Lucknow from north India (1750-1765) was sold at Rs 2.3 crore (GBP 226,800).