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Sotheby's Paris to offer treasures of the prestigious Qizilbash collection
Very few pieces of comparable quality produced at the court of Naples in the first half of the 18th century – the period when the piqué technique was at its peak – have remained. Photo: Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- On 28 November, Sotheby’s will offer at auction treasures from the prestigious Qizilbash collection. The collection, rightly described as “prestigious”, is a truly exceptional group of European works of art from the 17th and 18th centuries. Consisting of masterpieces made in the most exquisite materials, including gold, silver, gilt bronze, porcelain, hardstone and tortoiseshell piqué, this collection is a dazzling treasure trove, assembled by Hossein and Mariam Qizilbash, whose passion for art is equalled by their refined taste.

Jeweller, silversmith, marchand-mercier and bronze-maker, are all represented by the most accomplished, rare and precious works. Each object in this collection reflects the talent and expertise of the most gifted artists in France, Britain, Italy, Germany and Holland.

Selected by passionate and demanding connoisseurs, each of the nine lots in this collection represents, without exception, the excellence of European decorative arts. They are unquestionably all of museum quality.

Amateurs will appreciate the remarkable quality of this garniture composed of three pots-pourris in Chinese bleu céleste porcelain from the Kangxi period (1662-1722) with Louis XV gilt-bronze mountings c. 1765-1770 (Est. €1,000,000-2,000,000*).

This type of porcelain, which is extremely rare, was particularly sought-after in the 18th century, and marketed by Julliot, the famous marchand-mercier. Queen Marie-Antoinette owned several objects in Chinese bleu céleste porcelain mounted in gilt bronze. The subtly achieved gondola form, ornamented with coquille shape placed on branches of coral, bear witness to the artist's meticulous care. The extremely rare giltbronze ornament is characteristic of the "Goût grec", with its powerful, masculine, architectural style. The presence of a lion's head on each lid emphasises the uniqueness of this three-vase garniture. A pair of similar vases with swans’ heads is in the Musée du Louvre collections.

The provenance of this group is equally prestigious. The three works appeared as a set in around 1890 as part of the famous Swinton House collection, a reference in terms of the "Goût Rothschild" in vogue at the time. Before this date, the large vase belonged to HenryCamille de Beringhen, then to the collection of the President of Bandeville. The pair of potspourris probably belonged in turn to the Blondel de Gagny collection, considered one of the finest 18th-century cabinets of curiosities, then to that of Mademoiselle Sophie Arnould. The pair also features in the inventory of the Natoire sale of 14 December 1778.

From the most precious porcelain to the most exquisite piqué, the Qizilbash collection provides a rich overview of 18th Century decorative arts. And for three pieces in piqué to feature in a single collection is no less than extraordinary.

Magnificent, rare, ambitious, splendid, delicate, perfect – no superlatives can do justice to this parcel giltsilver ewer and basin in tortoiseshell piqué inlaid with gold and mother of pearl (Est. €400,000-600,000), because they are probably the most refined set ever made in piqué.

Very few pieces of comparable quality produced at the court of Naples in the first half of the 18th century – the period when the piqué technique was at its peak – have remained. Meticulously engraved and shaded, the decoration of these splendid works of art was made from the luxurious technique of piqué posé. The design, largely inspired by chinoiseries, combines arabesques with particularly remarkable geometric motifs around the rim of the bowl and the base of the ewer.

In the 19th century, the leading European collectors looked for works in piqué and competed for the most important pieces. This set joined the extraordinary collection of Sir Julian Goldsmid, which also included paintings by John Constable, William Turner and Sir Thomas Gainsborough.

While two similar basins are in the collection of the Musée du Louvre, and other pieces in piqué are listed, no other work of such extreme refinement and quality could be found. Only three other high quality pieces, all in museums, could be compared to our set: the table now in the Ermitage, the Cabinet in the Queen's collection in the United Kingdom, and the basin at Waddesdon Manor.

While the exquisite, delicate technique of piqué perfectly symbolised the idea of “Gesamtkunstwerk” as conceived in 18th Century Europe, this ewer and basin are exceptional masterpieces of the decorative arts.

We can also remark on this bowl made in Naples as a superb illustration of piqué (Est. €200,000-400,000).

This technique was also an opportunity to ennoble everyday objects, such as this spinning wheel, which also comes from Sir Julian Goldsmid's collection. Here, the piqué work combines coulé and point d’or with inlaid mother of pearl, illustrating the most delicate refinement, and resulting in a unique and highly original work of art (Est. €40,000-60,000).

Among its treasures, the Qizilbash collection also includes a splendid English inkstand from the first half of the 18th century (Est. €200,000-400,000). The exceptional quality and rarity of this piece can be seen in both its design and execution. While the design was inspired from Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier’s work, its distinctly English interpretation confirms that it was made in Britain.

An identical inkstand in gold, subsequently embellished with diamonds and a carnelian, is now in the Ermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. The piece today in the Qizilbash collection is the only known example in its original form.

Because each work in the Qizilbash collection is exceptional, we should also mention a ravishing enamel and gold book cover with an illustration of Orpheus, probably made in the Netherlands c. 1640 (Est. €40,000-60,000). A pair of parcel-gilt silver figures of Apollo and Vulcan by Abraham Drentwett II c. 1700-1705 (Est. €60,000-80,000) marvellously illustrates the work of leading goldsmiths at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, like this parcel-gilt silver basin and ewer (Est. €100,000-200,000) by the master goldsmith Marx Weinold in Augsburg c. 1697-1699. Lastly, we find a pair of pietre dure marquetry panels illustrating the technical virtuosity achieved by the Grand Ducal workshops in Florence in the early 18th century (Est. €70,000-100,000).

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