LONDON, ENGLAND.- An exceptional private collection of Persian and Islamic art, estimated to fetch in excess of £3 million, was offered for sale in Sotheby's Islamic week, on Tuesday, October 12, 2004. The Berkeley Trust Collection, as it is known, was formed over two decades from the late 1960s onwards and comprises approximately 150 items, including paintings, calligraphy, metalwork, Mughal and Ottoman textiles, ceramics, and early travel books as well as art reference works. The paintings section includes two important orientalist pictures by the British artists John Frederick Lewis and George Richmond, as well as the most important collection of Persian oil paintings to be offered at auction, which includes two fine late 17th-century Safavid oil portraits.
The Berkeley Trust Collection, which significantly contributed to two major exhibitions , was formed with a connoisseur's appreciation for quality and rarity as well as provenance and historical importance. These criteria are reflected throughout the collection, but are most apparent among the paintings, where several of the works are steeped in political as well as artistic significance. Important historical figures, such as the Persian emperor Fath 'Ali Shah and the Persian Prince Ardashir Mirza form the subjects of the paintings, whilst further works in the collection were made for, or owned by emperors or sultans, including the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and the Ottoman Sultans Mahmud I and Mahmud II. Other works in the collection have equally strong historical resonance. Provenance and the interweaving of historical themes, linking a number of items in the collection, reflects the importance which was attached to acquiring pieces of historical as well as artistic significance.