Christie’s Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds auction on Tuesday 6 October 2009, presents a dynamic array of over 250 rare works of academic importance and decorative beauty. This sale presents a shift in emphasis from early archeological items to examples from the ‘high period’ dating from the 15th and 16th century onwards. A celebration of the artistic genius of Ottoman Turkey is at the core of the sale, led by an important 17th century navigation chart of the Mediterranean (estimate: £300,000-400,000) and 32 works from a private London collection, featuring a stunning Iznik dish, circa 1540 (estimate: £60,000-80,000). Amongst the superb manuscripts and calligraphy on offer is a very important 13th century Qur’an from Amol, in North Iran (estimate: £200,000-300,000) and also Part III of The Library of The Late Djafar Ghazi, which follows the notable success of Part I in October 2008 and Part II in March 2009. Other media featured includes ceramics, metalwork, arms, textiles, jewellery and miniatures, with estimates ranging from £1,500 to £400,000. This sale is followed on Thursday 8 October by the auction of Oriental and European Rugs & Carpets and then by Christie’s South Kensington’s sale of Indian and Islamic Works of Art and Textiles on Friday 9 October.
Syrian room. Estimate: £50,000-70,000). Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2009
Formed during the 1980s and 1990s the private London collection of Ottoman works features what is believed to be the best example of an early 17th century Ottoman cylindrical covered jug of this type (estimate: £50,000-70,000). A remarkable survival of early Ottoman metalwork, the silver-gilt tankard with lid exemplifies the highest quality and craftsmanship of the period. Whilst several other comparable tankards exist, few retain the original lid and handle found here. The stunning sscroll handle with dragon heads displays the tughra (calligraphic seal or signature) of Sultan Murad IV, which makes this work particularly rare and impressive. Offered at auction for the first time in over two decades this tankard, like the beautiful ‘Damascus style’ Iznik dish, circa 1540 (estimate: £60,000-80,000) illustrates the eye of a connoisseur who knowledgeably assembled this private collection of superb works, fuelled by passion.
Important Ottoman works offered elsewhere are led by a very striking navigation chart of the Mediterranean (estimate: £300,000-400,000). This large 6ft by 3ft map, circa 1600 was executed with great sophistication and is particularly detailed; depicting every port, land and even sands which many 17th century Western European sea charts would not have shown. Charts like this were predominantly used on board ships as navigational tools; however this map does not have navigation lines and is more likely to have been used by an Ottoman Admiral as a tool for plotting naval warfare campaigns.
Remarkable works also include a complete Syrian room (estimate: £50,000-70,000). This polychrome-painted and relief-carved Damascus room dates to AH 1214/ 1799-1800 AD and is in very good condition. The walls of the current example, as with most Syrian interiors, would have originally be raised 60 or 80cm above the floor with marble mosaic or coloured stones below. This lot presents a fascinating fusion of cultures, with the panelling displaying strong European influence, whilst the calligraphic verses and the mihrab niche create a special atmosphere. The decoration, which is rich though not exuberant, reflects that this was probably a private chamber rather than a reception room, which would be more heavily decorated.
Amongst other notable lots further demonstrating the array of richly varied Ottoman works featured, in response to the current strength of demand for exceptional examples, is a late 17th century Ottoman ivory-inlaid miquelet-lock gun, from Turkey (estimate: £35,000-45,000). It is remarkably preserved and is spectacularly decorated with very fine inlay work, which helps to date it. Verbal tradition traces this gun to one of a pair that originally belonged to the Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa.
A 17th century decoupé collage in paper and feathers, skillfully depicting a cockerel and falcon (estimate: £30,000-40,000) is very rare. The size and technique of this work make it quite exceptional. The only other known example which employs feathers and decoupé paper in this manner dates to 1723, in which the artist, Canbazzade Osman, uses only small ‘touches’ of feathers, as opposed to applying them as here to large detailed areas. The precise execution of this collage, which presents an almost ornithological depiction, surpasses that of even painted examples such as the miniature of a magpie and woodpecker in the Topkapi Museum. Masterful execution is also exemplified by a huge very intensely coloured Iznik title, Ottoman Turkey, circa 1570 (estimate: £40,000-60,000), which is one of only three known examples and very similar to a tile in the Louvre Museum. It perfectly illustrates the new decorative style developed in the 1570s by the imperial atelier in charge of new decorative designs; there is real linear dynamism in the feathery saz leaves which pierce one another in a lyrical manner.
A large gilt-copper Ottoman (Tombak ) candlestick commissioned by a courtier of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent dated Dhu’l Hijja AH 945/ 1529 AD (estimate: £40,000-60,000) displays a finely incised inscription in elegant thuluth calligraphy around the base of the heavily cast, flaring cylindrical body of this handsome work. It is very similar to two candlesticks in the Islamic Museum in Cairo.
Calligraphy has always been one of the great strengths of Islamic Art, and continues increasingly to gain both recognition and appreciation. This sale features Part III of the library of the late Djafar Ghazi, a collection of manuscripts and calligraphy by the very best Persian and Turkish calligraphers (Ottoman, Timurid, Safavid and Qajar), many of which were specifically commissioned for Sultans, Shahs and Amirs in their gilded palaces. Outside of the collection, a very important and highly impressive 13th century Qur’an (estimate: £200,000-300,000) from Amol in Iran leads this section of the sale. Signed Muhhamad bin Ibrahim Mahmud al-Haddadi al-Tabari al-Amuli, this intricately designed and elegantly executed Qur’an, with a repeated decorative motif throughout, was completed within the lifetime of the master Yaqut al-Musta’simi and fills an important gap in early Qur’an scholarship. The extensive ‘colophon’ (signature) provides full details not only of the scribe and date, but also of the patron and place of manufacture. The date, AH 687/ 1288 AD, is most pertinent as the Mongol invasion and subsequent non-Muslim rule, until 1296AH resulted in very few manuscript Qur’ans surviving from the two decades prior to AH 700/1300AD.
Originating from Mosul is a very large, signed and dated, 13th century silver and gold inlaid white bronze jug, of the highest quality, which was made for Yusif ibn al- Kinibiri (estimate: £250,000-350,000). This is the largest known example of this form and is proudly signed by ‘The Designer’, Husayn al- Hakim. It is exceedingly rare to find metalwork from this period which is signed, dated and also names the patron. Its figural panels and intricate details are on a scale rarely encountered.
Fascinating works from the Islamic world also include a unique 14th century ivory sceptre. This is likely to be an example of symbolic insignia, possibly of the sultan himself, from Mamluk Egypt (estimate: £80,000-120,000). The quality of the carving and unusually large size are all characteristic of a luxurious object made for a royal patron. This is a unique example and the only known sceptre to comprise very delicate, pierced lace-work; a technique previously only found in a group of small cylindrical boxes from the period, which are held in institutions including the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Louvre and Metropolitan Museum of Art. The inspiration may originate from one of three traditions: the Egyptian Fatimids, the European crusaders or the Turco-Mongol substrate. Elsewhere, a large late 16th or early 17th century Safavid silk and metal thread velvet rug (estimate: £100,000-150,000) will be offered by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; it is being sold to benefit the acquisition fund. Of rectangular form, this textile is a joy; comprising dynamic colours, interlacing medallions, foliage and flower heads. The only other known non-figural velvet rug is held in a private collection and so this work presents collectors and institutions with a wonderful opportunity. No comparable velvet has appeared on the auction market in the last 100 years.
Lots offered from the Indian World are led by an important painting by William Hodges R.A. (1744-1797), depicting August Cleveland’s camp near Bhagalpur (estimate: £80,000-100,000). Hodges is distinguished for being the first professional landscape painter from Britain to work in India. Warren Hastings, the Governor General, introduced Hodges to the son of John Cleveland the Secretary to the Admiralty, August Cleveland, who became a friend and patron of the artist. Cleveland was a remarkable administrator and this superb painting is a historical record which captures the result of Cleveland’s nurturing governance of the Paharias (hill people) who lived in the territory to the south and west of Bhagalpur; a tribe for whom Cleveland had great affection, though they were reputedly of a wild nature and feared by many. Cleveland’s ‘humanity’ and desire to improve the district led him to initiate an expedition to speak with the principal chiefs, which resulted in more discussions, visits to his property and finally the tribe’s agreement to form into a battalion of sepoys, which were part of the East India Company. Cleveland was held in such great esteem by the Paharias that they erected a monument to him upon his death, complete with a small chamber for prayer; reflecting the extent of his benevolent and historic impact.
Works of Art include a 17th century Indo-Portugese cabinet on stand, thought to be Goanese, with intricate roundel design (estimate: £40,000-60,000). The pattern of intersecting circles that covers the surfaces is comparable to a similar cabinet in the Victoria and Albert Museum, whilst the sculptural treatment of the legs on this cabinet is particularly distinctive: assuming the form of a woman with a lower body scaled like a sea serpent. The Hindu snake divinities nagas and naginis were believed to provide protection from dangers, including snake bites. Other very attractive works range from a late 17th/ early 18th century Indo-Portugese Ivory-inlaid casket (estimate: £10,000-15,000); a top quality 18th century Mughal circular silver tray with English mount and gilding (estimate: £3,000-5,000) and a very attractive velvet border (estimate: £4,000-6,000) which was probably the border of a Mughal carpet, in the same way that the velvet rug detailed above also has a border which was made quite separately.
Oriental and European Rugs & Carpets: Thursday 8 October
An array of over 200 Oriental and European Rugs & Carpets will be offered at Christie’s London on Thursday 8 October. Catering to meet many tastes and styles, beautiful decorative examples are led by a late 19th century Indian Agra wool carpet (estimate: £50,000-70,000). A Kirman pictorial rug from south east Persia, at the turn of the 20th century, provides a whimsical scene of lions and cherubs sitting amidst exquisite lilies which point to the European influence of botanical illustrations (estimate: £4,000-6,000). A charming rug in beautiful condition is exemplified by a classic late 19th century Heriz carpet from North West Persia, which comprises bold colours and a large geometric design which rewards close inspection with illustrations of hookah smokers within the medallions (estimate: £18,000-24,000). Very rare silk carpets include a silk Senneh rug, circa 1900 (estimate: £8,000-12,000) and an excellent Silk Bijar rug from around 1860 (estimate: £15,000-20,000). Both Bijar and Senneh were well known weaving centers which created many woollen, but very few silk, rugs and carpets. There is also a strong section of Kazak carpets from south Caucasus, including an example from the early 19th century with three medallions (estimate: £10,000-14,000).
Christie’s South Kensington: Indian and Islamic Works of Art and Textiles on Friday 9 October
This sale will offer over 600 inspiring lots, featuring the same two private collections which are also at the core of the King Street sale. A wonderful group of Ottoman silver amassed over a 20 year period by the London collector is led by a fine Ottoman silver ewer and basin with filter, period of Abdulhamid II, dated 1300AH/1882AD (estimate: £10,000-15,000). Following the success of the outstanding manuscripts and calligraphy from the collection of Djafar Ghazi offered in April 2009, a further selection will include an Ottoman calligraphy panel signed Hafiz Yusuf Kah, Dated 1261AH/1845AD (estimate: £1,000-1,500). Elsewhere, a group of wonderful medieval gold jewellery from Iran and Syria and stunning Indian miniatures and paintings include a late 18th century portrait of Raja Prakash Chand of Guler smoking a hookha (estimate: £1,500-2,500). A new section of the sale is devoted to the emerging enthusiasm for 20th century Sino Muslim calligraphies and their bold brushstrokes, exemplified by a 20th century Sino-Muslim calligraphy signed ‘Abd Al-Hakim (Liu Jingyi) from China (estimate: £800-1,200).