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Sotheby's announces Arts of the Islamic World: Rare and precious works of art spanning 1000 years
A magnificent Qajar royal portrait of Fath ‘Ali Shah attended by a prince attributed to Mihr ‘Ali, Persia, circa 1820, Estimate: £1,500,000-2,500,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- On 9th April 2014 Sotheby’s Arts of the Islamic World sale will bring to the market an exquisite selection of paintings, manuscripts, textiles, ceramics, weaponry and rugs. Spanning over 1000 years, these objects offer a remarkable testimony to the astonishing scope of artistic production in the lands under Islamic patronage from Spain to China. Among the 237 objects to go under the hammer, highlights include a lifesize portrait of Persian ruler Fath ‘Ali Shah, an important Iznik pottery tile depicting the Ka’ba, and an eleventh-century rock crystal chess piece.

Benedict Carter, Head of Auction Sales, Middle East, commented: “This year’s spring sale offers opulent and luxurious objects befitting the world’s finest collections. The selection of Turkish works are especially notable, led by a rediscovered imperial Ottoman silver-gilt penbox and an astounding group of twenty-seven watercolour portraits of the Ottoman Sultans. Additionally, following the success of our inaugural sale of ‘Art of Imperial India’ last year, we are delighted to once again have sourced for sale a superb array of Indian jewellery, jade and silver. Ranging from an eleventh-century Fatimid chess piece to an eighteenth-century Ottoman metal-thread curtain of the Holy Ka’ba door, the sale reflects the remarkable scope of artistic production and craftsmanship in Islamic culture”.

The sale will be led by a magnificent Qajar royal portrait of Fath ‘Ali Shah, estimated at £1,500,000-2,500,000. Fath Ali’ Shah was the pre-eminent Qajar emperor of Persia, and his long reign is characterised as a period of harmony and cultural development. A key patron of the arts, he commissioned a number of life-size portraits, using these images as tools of propaganda, immortalising his rule. Mihr ‘Ali was one of the preferred painters of the Qajar court, famed for the distinctively illustrative quality of his works and his focus on the expression and personality of his subjects.

A Fatimid rock crystal chess piece Egypt, 11th century Estimate: £80,000-120,000
Estimated at £80,000-120,000, this chess piece dating from the 11th century presents a rare example of Fatimid rock crystal carving and is an important addition to the known group of rock crystal gaming pieces from this period. This particular piece probably formed part of an important commission for a wealthy patron, given the luxurious material in which it was fashioned.

Other highlights include a group of Hispano-Moresque pottery dishes from an Italian private collection. The lustre technique was first introduced into Spain by Moorish craftsmen in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Characterised by their lively designs and colour combinations, these dishes were highly sought after not only by Spanish patrons but by aristocratic families across Europe. This patronage is reflected in the heraldic emblems that are often found in the centre of the dishes, notably, the heraldic eagle, which often features and of which there are stylistically similar examples in the collections of both the Louvre, Paris, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

The sale includes a Plan of the Holy Sanctuary in Mecca – this map, dating from the nineteenth century, is a precise scale plan of the Haram al-Sharif, with illustrated details of the Holy Places and other buildings surrounding the mosque. The largest mosque in the world, Al-Masjid Al-Haram in Mecca, surrounds the holiest site in Islam - the Ka’ba which is central to the Hajj.

Among a number of works in the sale relating to the Ka’ba is an Ottoman metal-thread curtain of the Holy Ka’ba door (est. £80,000-120,000), which is covered in intricate embroidery detailing passages from the Qur’an. Also included in the sale and dating from the seventeenth century, is an Iznik pottery tile depicting the Ka’ba (est. £80,000-120,000). These decorative tiles were often kept in the houses of people who had undertaken the Hajj. Similar tiles can be found in a number of museum collections including the British Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum, London, the Louvre, Paris, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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