Chronology : Origin 14th century 1460-1479 1929 1939
Funerary Statues in the Fifth Dynasty
2014 SOLD 15.8 M£ including premium
A chapel or an altar dedicated to the deceased allowed to accumulate all kinds of offerings that could be useful to him. His memory was maintained by a painted limestone statue, with a remarkable anthropomorphic realism but without looking for a physical resemblance to the deceased.
The man is sitting in a serene attitude, surrounded by his wife and his favorite son, both mid-scale. All three are named, with their titles. The wife starts a loving gesture. Hieroglyphs are detailing the long list of acceptable offerings.
The statue of Ka-nefer, a priest of Ptah and foreman of craftsmen, 36 cm high, was sold for $ 2.8 million including premium by Christie's on December 9, 2005.
On July 10 in London, Christie's sells the statuette of Sekhemka, Inspector of the scribes, 75 cm high. This big piece in exceptional condition is estimated £ 4M. I invite you to play the video shared by Christie's.
The attitude of the man is very beautiful, with a serious gaze and the hint of a smile. He holds a partly opened scroll covered with fragile inscriptions that remain in perfect condition. The faces of the cube on which he sits are beautifully carved with offering bearers bringing geese, calves and flowers.
POST SALE COMMENT
This great piece from the Old Kingdom of Egypt was sold for £ 15.8M including premium.
18th Dynasty - The Army of the Sekhmet
2015 SOLD for $ 4.2M including premium
The lioness-headed goddess Sekhmet is ranked high in that pantheon. A lioness is a wild mother whom you should not try to annoy. Sekhmet is powerful and leads the king to his success in war. She does not tolerate the odd and her cult is difficult. She is not joking and her expression is impassive despite the offerings.
During the 18th dynasty, Amenhotep III resolutely places himself under the protection of Sekhmet. This alliance is favorable as no significant event disturbs the outer peace during his long reign, around 3400 years ago.
This Pharaoh multiplies the figures of Sekhmet and his funerary temple contains nearly 700 of them. The priestesses were committed to serve a different statue every day of the year.
On December 8 in New York, Sotheby's sells one of these monumental granite figures, 2.10 m high, which had belonged to the collections of John Lennon and A. Alfred Taubman. It is estimated $ 3M, lot 23. Cartouches including the name of Amenhotep III confirm the hypothesis that it was carved during his reign.
The goddess wearing a long tight dress is sitting on her throne. She is physically identified by her feline head but her mane is covered by a wig.
1330 BCE Portrait of a Pharaoh
2019 SOLD for £ 4.7M including premium
A young man with such an attribute is necessarily a reigning pharaoh. Amen is a multiple god who has no personal figuration. Pharaoh is his incarnation.
The heretic king Akhenaten had replaced the worship of Amen by that of the solar circle Aten, certainly for political reasons. He thus escaped the hold by the Theban priests. He had established his capital in the middle of the desert, on a site whose Arab name will be Amarna. This religious revolution was accompanied by an artistic breakthrough. Amarnian artists have for the first time sought a naturalistic representation. Nefertiti was a wife of Akhenaten.
The head for sale is carved with realism, attesting to the post-Amarna period. The only candidate is Tutankhamen, the son of Akhenaten, who returned to the cult of Amen in the third year of his reign around 1330 BCE after a transition of undocumented events that looks like a huge mess. The last two pharaohs of his eighteenth dynasty, Ay and Horemheb, are senior dignitaries. The 19th dynasty, that of the first Ramesses, brings another style.
Fortunately the effigy of Tutankhamen is exceptionally well known. The quartzite head is recognizable by the unhealthy depression between eyes and eyebrows and by the weakness of the lower lip, resulting from the full consanguinity of his parents.
A Fatimid Rock Crystal Ewer
2008 SOLD 3.1 M£ including premium
The rock crystal ewer found by Christie's comes from that time. Associated Press tells the story of this discovery. In January, a small English auction house proposed a French wine jug of the nineteenth century, estimated one hundred pounds. Fans were excited on the unusual nature of this object, and they spoke quickly into hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here there is divergence between AP saying that the object was sold, which Xinhua saying, quoting Christie's, that it was withdrawn "by mutual agreement".
It is a true treasure: it is comforting to know that there are still some of them circulating on the market. The challenge is to detect them. Christie's offers this item for sale in London on October 7, announcing in its press release that it could exceed £ 3 million.
It is one of seven identified copies of Fatimid rock crystal ewers from the Fatimid royal treasure of Cairo. It was carved in a block of flawless rock crystal, and is decorated with cheetahs in chains. The six other copies belong to museums. Each one is decorated with a different animal in relation to the theme of hunting.
The ewer of our article has been gold mounted in the middle of the nineteenth century by a French goldsmith who once worked for Queen Victoria. That may probably explain the January initial error of description.
Such works are fragile. The one that belonged to the Pitti palace was broken in 1998 beyond repair during a fall. The scarcity is created and strengthened by the disappearance of objects. This one is exceptional.
POST SALE COMMENT
The specialists at Christie's were right in their estimates. The ewer was sold £ 3.1 million including expenses.
1340-1345 The Major-domo of a Powerful Mamluk Emir
2011 SOLD 4.5 M£ including premium
A Mamluk candlestick for sale by Sotheby's in London on April 6 reflects this hierarchical structure. It is estimated £ 2M.
The base is a truncated cone slightly curved, 34 cm in its largest diameter. It is topped by a stick that supports the candle holder, also a truncated cone, for a total height of 38 cm. This piece of brass inlaid with copper and silver is decorated on its whole surface with inscriptions, armorials and other animal, vegetal and geometric motifs.
The white eagles and cups in cartouches shaped as reversed teardrops are the blazon of the emir Tuquztamur, who was certainly famous in his time! The inscriptions testify to the faithfulness of the major-domo of his noble house.
The identification of the Emir enables to date the candlestick with some accuracy because his role of viceroy was limited to a period of five years (741-746 AH, 1340-1345 AD). Curiously, this information can not locate the object, since the emir executed several successive appointments in Egypt and Syria.
POST SALE COMMENT
The great rarity and the complex decoration of the candlestick pushed it up to £ 4.5 million including premium.
It takes its place among the important pieces of ancient Islamic art.
A Mamluk Finger Bowl
2009 SOLD 1.55 M£ including premium
21 cm high, it is conically shaped. Its top diameter is 20 cm. The base diameter is not indicated but as seen in the photos of the catalog, it is 15 cm. It is very nicely decorated, including palmettes and animals in three crowns of similar heights. An inscription in cursive style indicates that it contains cool water and serves as a finger vessel. The colors are bright and contrasting.
The old glasses are very rare, I had already many opportunities to say it. The catalog indicates that there is no more than four other remaining pieces of this type. Such object is difficult to be dated, but by comparison of its decorative motifs with other Mamluk art, it is about 650 years old, which makes its creation in the early eighth century of the Hegira.
POST SALE COMMENT
The object is admirable (it's a word I use rarely) and deserves its price: £ 1.55 million including premium.
Buyers are still there for lots of very high quality. Hopefully the sellers will realize!
Mamluk - A Damascened Shirt of Mail
2015 SOLD for $ 2.3M including premium
On December 5 in Rock Island IL, Rock Island Auction Company sells a Mamluk shirt of mail and plate, lot 1262estimated in excess of $ 200K.
The weaving of this garment is the simplest and most effective model where each ring is linked with its four surrounding rings. The coat opens from the front side. At the front and back of the garment, the plates are inlaid with a gilding of koftgari type.
Inscriptions are difficult to read, but the reference to the Mamluk Sultan Qaitbay seems indisputable. It was probably created for the sultan himself or one of his riders. A similar armor assigned to the same reign is preserved at the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul. Qaitbay ruled Egypt from 871 to 901 AH, during the last quarter of the 15th century of our calendar.
This piece is in a very satisfactory condition for its age. A few rings and a few plate rivets are missing or twisted. About 60% of the koftgari is present with a particularly good conservation on the front of the shirt.
1489 A Mamluk Qur'an
2019 SOLD for £ 3.7M including premium
Throughout his long reign Qaitbay successfully resisted the ambitions of his powerful Ottoman neighbors. Despite his conservative reputation, he knew how to take diplomatic initiatives. The giraffe he sent to Florence was the only one of its kind to be seen in Europe between antiquity and 1826 CE.
He was a great builder. Like his predecessors, he endowed his religious institutions with inalienable donations identified as waqf in Islamic law. The most luxurious Korans of his reign are calligraphed in the very large format 107 x 80 cm named Baghdadi.
On May 2 in London, Christie's sells a complete Qur'an made of 311 folios on half-Baghdadi cream paper 68 x 45 cm, lot 11 estimated £ 500K. This Qur'an is not inscribed as a waqf and we do not know for which foundation it was created but it is luxuriously dedicated to Sultan Qaitbay. Its writing is large, making it comfortable to read aloud on a lectern.
This manuscript is signed with the personal and courtesy names of the scribe. The nickname, al-Maliki al-Ashrafi, attests to a double allegiance to an unidentified noble person, perhaps simply to indicate that he works in the royal studio.
It is dated 21 Jumada I 894 AH, corresponding to April 30, 1489 CE. Some details of the realization show that it was done in a urgency, with mistakes removed by a simple scraping of the thick paper and even with omissions in the illustration. This hurry could be related to health problems of the aging Sultan.
Ramadan marks the month in which the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. This spectacular royal Mamluk Qur’an is over 500 years old. Created for the Sultan Qaytbay of Egypt, its gold chapter (sura) heading inscriptions are painted on a lapis lazuli ground. pic.twitter.com/jD26zoDvoe— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) April 23, 2020
1929 When the Dervishes Whirled
2010 SOLD 2.55 M$ including premium
The Egyptian painter Mahmoud Said illustrated the traditional life of his country, but relied upon the trends of modern European art.
The honor of having led the artist to the auction heights is held by Christie's. A 1934 oil on panel, 89 x 117 cm, was sold U.S. $ 2.4 million including premium in Dubai on April 27, 2010. The information released to the press before the sale was so convincing that I almost discussed this work in this column, despite a trivial estimate of $ 150K.
This naive painting entitled Les Chadoufs (shadoofs) showed people busy to take water in these wells so typical of the Nile Valley. Since this auction feat, other works have shown the versatility of this outstanding artist.
Also in Dubai, on October 26, Christie's sells another oil on panel, 98 x 70 cm, painted in 1929. In a space of ritual dance, six dervishes are whirling. The date of the artwork, the movement of their robes and headdresses, assess that Said had assimilated the Cubism of Severini, Goncharova or Delaunay.
Yet he signed here a work whose subject is deeply anchored in Egyptian traditions, and we can assume that the reasonable estimate, U.S. $ 300K, will be exceeded.
POST SALE COMMENT
The Dervishes had seemed to me to have the same quality as the Shadoofs. This lot obtained an excellent result: U.S. $ 2.55 million including premium, thus proving the interest and variety of the work of Said. The market has found this year in Said a very important Egyptian artist.
1939 A Dynastic Wedding in the Middle East
2015 SOLD for $ 4.3M including premium
The Queen Mother Nazli is the widow of King Fuad. After being rarely present in the ceremonies during her 17 years with Fouad including 14 years as queen consort of Egypt, the still pretty 45-year-old mother of the bride is the queen of the wedding.
Queen Nazli is wearing a diamond tiara and necklace commissioned for the occasion to Van Cleef et Arpels.
The platinum necklace is composed of small round and beguette diamonds for a total weight of 217 carats. A spectacular radiant pattern directed to a sun adorns the upper chest. It is inseparable from the neck lacing in four rows of diamonds going on each side to a diamond knot.
The necklace of Queen Nazli is estimated $ 3.6M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 9, lot 506.
The photo of the queen with her two French jewels is shared by Wikimedia with an error in the identification of the ceremony that does not impair its belonging to the public domain.