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Sotheby's to Offer For Sale The Celebrated Collection of Stuart Cary Welch
Bhairavi Raga: Lord Krishna Enthroned and Adored, Deccan or Rajasthan, India, circa 1650. Gouache heightened with gold on paper (13 by 17.8cm.) Estimate: £30,000-50,000. Photo: Sotheby's.
LONDON.- Sotheby’s announced that in 2011 it will offer for sale the outstanding and scholarly collection of Islamic and Indian Art assembled by the late Stuart Cary Welch. This celebrated collection, which is estimated to realise in excess of £6 million*, will be offered in London in two parts: Part I. The Stuart Cary Welch Collection: Arts of the Islamic World in April 2011, and Part II. The Stuart Cary Welch Collection: Arts of India in May 2011.

Discussing the importance of The Stuart Cary Welch Collection, Edward Gibbs, Senior Director and Head of Sotheby’s Middle East Department, commented: “This remarkable collection reflects the passion and taste of a true scholar-connoisseur: the special nature and quality of each object captures some aspect of the dedication and aesthetic sensibility of this gifted and renowned collector, Stuart Cary Welch. The rarity, quality and historical importance of the objects in the collection, coupled with the fine provenance, create an irresistible opportunity for collectors of Islamic and Indian Art, and we expect the auctions in 2011 to generate tremendous excitement among museums and collectors worldwide.”

Stuart Cary Welch (1928-2008)
A celebrated connoisseur and collector, Stuart Cary Welch was also a curator, scholar and gifted teacher. His contribution for over half a century to the study of the art and aesthetics of India and the Middle East was second to none. Through his innate understanding and intense feeling for Indian and Islamic art, especially painting and drawing, he was able to enlighten and lead others towards a richer and deeper appreciation of the subject. Testament to his infectious enthusiasm for artistic beauty and to his inspirational gifts as a teacher is the distinguished role call of students and friends who went on to become scholars, collectors, curators and museum directors in their own right.

Stuart Cary Welch's career as a lecturer at Harvard (1960-1995) was complemented by his role as curator of Islamic and Indian Art at Harvard Art Museums spanning over forty years. His remarkable eye and his ability to marshal artistic and didactic themes were seen in the pioneering and rightly admired exhibitions that he organised and curated. These ground-breaking exhibitions revealed a whole new and exotic world of art to the public in the USA and Europe. These included “India: Art and Culture 1300-1900”, the monumental exhibition he master-minded at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1985, as well as exhibitions devoted to royal Persian painting of the Safavid era: “Wonders of the Age” (British Library, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington; and Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass., 1979); Mughal and Rajput painting: “The Art of Mughal India” (Asia Society, New York, 1964), “Gods, Thrones and Peacocks” (Asia Society, New York, 1965), “A Flower From Every Meadow” (Asia Society, New York, 1973) and “Indian Drawings and Painted Sketches” (Asia Society, New York, 1976); the art of British India: “Room for Wonder” (American Federation of Arts, New York, 1978); and painting from the court of Kotah: “Gods, Kings and Tigers” (Asia Society, New York, and Harvard University Art Museums, 1997). Stuart Cary Welch also published extensively, and his many publications speak eloquently of the depth and breadth of his knowledge and learning. The monumental two-volume publication “The Houghton Shahnameh” (1981), co-authored with Martin Dickson, was a landmark study, which had a profound influence on the whole subject of early Safavid painting. Furthermore, his donations to Harvard Art Museums and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have given these institutions outstanding additions to their permanent collections.

The Collection
Among the many highlights to be offered across the two sales in 2011, the star lot is an illustrated leaf depicting the story of King Faridun transforming himself into a dragon to test the courage of his three sons, from one of the most famous illustrated Persian manuscripts ever produced, the Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasp, also known as the “Houghton Shahnameh”. This royal manuscript, which was at one time owned by the Barons Edmund and Maurice de Rothschild, is acknowledged as one of the supreme illustrated manuscripts of any period or culture, and among the greatest works of art in the world. The celebrated Shahnameh or ‘Book of Kings’ is the Persian national epic, narrating the history and mythology of Persia from prehistoric times until the 7th century. The author, Firdausi, presented his epic poem of 30,000 couplets, the result of 35 years work, to Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna in 1010AD. It quickly became a revered and popular text associated with kings and princes, and a symbol of royal sovereignty.

This particular leaf from the Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasp is one of the most important ever to appear on the open market and is one of the finest miniatures from the book attributable to Aqa Mirak. It is estimated at £2-3 million*.

Further highlights from The Stuart Cary Welch Collection:

Part I Sale
Five Holy Men at Dal Lake
Attributed to the Mughal artist Govardhan.
India, circa 1625-30
Gouache heightened with gold on paper (23.8 by 15.2cm.)
Estimate: £200,000-300,000

Part II Sale
Bhairavi Raga: Lord Krishna Enthroned and Adored
Deccan or Rajasthan, India, circa 1650
Gouache heightened with gold on paper (13 by 17.8cm.)
Estimate: £30,000-50,000

A South American Monkey named Hussein
By an anonymous artist working for Rana Amar Singh II of
Mewar (ruled 1698-1710)
Udaipur, India, circa 1700
Gouache on paper (44.5 by 55.9cm.)
Estimate: £70,000-90,000

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium

Sotheby's | Stuart Cary Welch | Edward Gibbs |


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