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Sotheby's London Arts of the Islamic World Sale presents an exceptional range of works
Model of the Dome of the Rock, Dr Conrad Schick, Jerusalem 1872-3. Estimate: £250,000-£300,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s London announced that its Arts of the Islamic World sale on 24th April 2013 will bring to the market one of the strongest ever offerings of paintings, manuscripts, textiles, ceramics and weapons, spanning thirteen centuries of Islamic history. Many of the works in the sale are of museum quality and have rarely or never before been seen at auction. Highlights of the sale include a unique, intricately detailed model of The Dome of the Rock, one of the most sacred sites in Islam (est. £250,000-£300,000*), and an extremely rare intact concertina-form album of Persian miniatures and calligraphy from the 16th-19th centuries (est. £50,000-70,000). In total the sale of 304 lots is expected to achieve in excess of £6.9 million.

Benedict Carter, Sotheby’s Director and Head of Auction Sales of Islamic Art, London, said: “In response to the growing international demand for arts of the Islamic world, for our forthcoming sale we have succeeded in sourcing a broad range of exceptional pieces that are of a remarkably high calibre. The selection to be offered will be of great appeal to the extremely discerning collectors in this field - those who are specifically seeking items of Islamic significance, and those who acquire in this field purely out of appreciation for the exquisite craftsmanship and rarity of the paintings, manuscripts, textiles, ceramics and weapons that the sale comprises.”

Of special interest in the sale are two very rare and highly important early Bijapuri royal portraits dating from the late 16th century. The portraits, which depict the Bijapuri Sultans 'Ali 'Adil Shah (r.1557-1579) and Ibrahim 'Adil Shah (r.1579-1627) respectively, are examples of only a very small number of Deccan royal portraits dating from this period.

Both works were probably presented by the Bijapur royal family to the Mughal Emperor as part of a royal tribute at the beginning of the seventeenth century. This is indicated by the identification inscriptions featured on both works which are likely to have been written by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir himself. The paintings will be offered as two separate lots, each of which are each expected to achieve £150,000 - £200,000.

A Mughal nobleman riding through a landscape holding a hawk
India, Deccan, Bijapur, circa 1660-1680
Estimate £50,000-£70,000

The auction will also bring to the market an important and rare Bijapuri equestrian portrait from the seventeenth century. Although the identity of the majestic mounted figure depicted here is uncertain, it is most likely to be a portrait of a senior Mughal courtier named Ja'far Khan who lived in Deccan at the time.

A sale highlight that is particularly noteworthy is the auction of Dr Conrad Schick’s model of the Dome of the Rock, an outstanding museum piece of great historical interest and educational importance. Ingenious, inspired and pedagogical, it embodies the spirit of the Age of the Great Exhibitions. The architect and archaeologist was commissioned by the Ottoman Sultan ‘Abd al-Aziz to create the monumental wooden model of The Dome of the Rock, one of the most sacred sites in Islam, for the 1873 World Fair in Vienna. Schick’s highly accurate and ornate model, which is almost two metres square, represents an invaluable record of how the building stood in former times. The only other models produced by Schick known to have survived, those of the Temple Mount and the Jewish Temple, are held by private institutions and are unlikely ever to come to market.

A silk and metal-thread brocade cover (masnad), Persia, 18th century, Estimate £100,000-£150,000
This teal blue silk brocade, so large that it was probably woven for a ceremonial purpose, may once have adorned a throne dais. At the very least it was a large ‘masnad’, intended for a nobleman to sit upon when on the floor. Once owned by the Counts Potocki who lived in Ukraine during the seventeenth century, it is decorated with golden thread and depicts a trellis enclosing floral sprays and shrubs, with a highly unusual border of stylised leaves.

A highly important ivory-inlaid Indo-Portuguese cabinet of
Royal provenance, Goa, India, late 17th century
Estimate: £200,000-£300,000

Standing majestically on four sculptural bird-form feet with caryatid figures on each corner supporting the structure, this cabinet represents an exceptional example of Indo-Portuguese craftsmanship. The rare and extraordinary work has passed through the hands of three very distinguished royal houses of Europe, Braganza, Saxe-Coburg, and Hohenzollern. Dating to the 17th century, it was most likely a special commission for the Portuguese Royal family. Composed of Indian coromandel wood, it is inlaid with ivory tinted in a kaleidoscope of colours and is decorated with serpent heads, naginas and solid ivory caryatids.

The sale will also include an extraordinarily rare sixteenth century Iznik water flask. The flask, fashioned to look like a traditional leather vessel used across the Ottoman Empire at the time, is wholly unique. Humble utilitarian objects were imitated in a number of luxurious materials across this period. It is likely that such traditional forms and objects were prized, celebrated for their links to history and the past.

A large and important album of watercolours of costumes, craftsmen, trades, processions and dignitaries, India, Vellore, Company School, circa 1832-35
Estimate £200,000-300,000

This large album of very fine watercolours depicting scenes of nineteenth century Indian life, commissioned by an East India Company official living in Vellore during the 1830s, provides a fascinating insight into the Indian culture of the period.

Superior to the majority of similar related productions of Company patronage, the album is remarkable for both for its size and quality, but also for its uncommon subject matter. Alongside depictions of craftsmen, processions, dancers and contemporary costumes, unusually the album also contains both a self-portrait of the artist at work, and an image of a colonial-style bungalow in Vellore, most probably the patron’s home. Among the other characters illustrated are a fisherman, doctor, barber, goldsmith, a dressing servant and dancing girls. All in all, the album includes 35 large sheets bound in their original leather covers and is estimated at £200,000-£30,000.

A rare concertina-form album of miniatures and calligraphy (Muraqqa’)
Persia, 16th-19th century, Estimate £50,000-70,000

The auction will also include an extremely rare album of drawings and calligraphy. While many such albums, traditionally collected and coveted by courtiers and other wealthy patrons, have been broken upon over the centuries and dispersed into countless collections, this muraqqa’ is exceptional for remaining intact. Assembled in a charming personal manner, probably in the nineteenth century, the 28 page album opens like a book: similar animals, dervishes and other figures confront each other, interspersed with various calligraphic panels. Comprising illustrations and illuminations dating from between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, the album is estimated at £50,000 - £70,000.

A rare and important gold and silver-inlaid dagger
Ghaznavid or seljuk, Eastern Persia, 11th/12th century
Estimate £500,000-£700,000

Dating from the 11th or 12th century, this gold and silver dagger is an extremely early and rare example of a courtly piece of weaponry. It is a remarkable survival: very few extant examples of such daggers are known to exist, and, of the small number of surviving pieces, an even smaller number are decorated with such astonishingly intricate and beautiful inlaid designs as seen here. The dagger, which still retains its original wood hilt, has an ornate curved steel blade finely inlaid with gold and silver friezes of running animals and bands of cursive calligraphy, providing a rare insight into the manner in which the elite of this period chose to ornament their lives.

A rare and important Post-Sasanian or early Islamic silver Ewer, Persia, 8th century
Estimate £300,000-£500,000

This elegant silver ewer dating from the eighth century is a very early example of Islamic craftsmanship. Of pear-shaped form and depicting six female figures dressed in lavish coats, the rare ewer presents an amalgam of styles and features associated with the early Islamic period, reflecting the important exchange of ideas and artistic motifs taking place at this time.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium

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