Chronology : 1-1000 14th century 1400-1429 1480-1499 1500-1519 1520-1539 17th century 1600-1609 1620-1629 1700-1719 1860-1869 1972
724 The Dinar from Arabia
2019 SOLD for £ 3.7M including premium
Taking advantage of the conquests, the caliphs exploit distant mines including Ifriqiya in Tunisia from 100 to 122 AH and al-Andalus. Around 100 AH the caliph Umar buys a mine in Hijaz, between Medina and Mecca, on a land bequeathed to the father of the previous owners by the Prophet himself.
The dies are made in Damascus. Some very rare prestige editions make a reference to the origin of the gold. Most of the coins were nevertheless striken in Damascus but the practice of traveling mints is not excluded because the necessary tools were not bulky.
The use of the Gold of the Commander of the Believers is indicated on a series of dinars in 91 and 92 AH. The dinar of 105 AH adds to this inscription a Hijaz origin. It is impossible to know if the gold of these two series comes from the same mine.
In 105 AH corresponding to 724 CE, the caliph Yazid dies after a long illness. The presence in Arabia of his brother and successor Hisham is attested in that year. Although it is impossible to conclude which of the two caliphs commissioned the gold dinar, a prestigious operation of the new caliph co-ordinated with a pilgrimage to Mecca is likely.
By its inscription, this beautiful dinar from Hijaz weighing 4.27 g is the most valuable of the Islamic Umayyad coins. One of them in Extremely Fine condition was sold for £ 3.7M including premium by Morton and Eden on April 4, 2011 over a lower estimate of £ 300K.
Another uncirculated example of this dinar was sold for £ 793K including premium by Baldwin's on December 6, 2012, lot 120. It had previously passed at the same auction house on April 25, 2012, lot 17 with a lower estimate of £ 1.5M. I discussed it in this column before these sales. It is now estimated £ 1.4M for sale by Morton and Eden in London on October 24, lot 11 here linked on the NumisBids bidding platform.
Morton and Eden are delighted to announce the sale of the extremely rare Umayyad dinar Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin bi'l-Hijaz 105h, sold today for £3.720.000 (with premium), matching the record we set in 2011 for a similar coin. pic.twitter.com/dkN2oBdES2— Morton & Eden Ltd (@MortonandEden) October 24, 2019
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.
> 1417 Persian Manuscripts on Chinese Paper
2020 SOLD for £ 7M including premium
The Timurid empire broke out after his death. His son Shahrukh reigned over Persia and transferred the capital from Samarkand to Herat. He re-established relations with China through the silk road and became immensely wealthy. He did not seek conquests, took the title of sultan and protected Islam.
This political lull occured during the reign of Yongle of the Ming. A first Chinese embassy reaches Herat in 815 AH (1412 CE). China produces porcelain decorated in Muslim taste to serve as a diplomatic gift. The second embassy in 820 AH brought many gifts including porcelain but also silks, brocades, velvets and paper. This embassy is probably the terminus post quem of the Persian books on Chinese paper.
The Chinese luxury paper is thick, and designed to be extremely soft and silky to the touch. The Chinese workshops prepare the folio on a monochrome background in various hues of blue, pink, lavender, yellow and green. They then add an illustration in gold, with speckled patterns and sometimes figurative drawings, without human representation in conformance with the iconographic principles of Islam. The Persian workshops add their text on this preparation.
A dozen Persian manuscripts on Chinese paper are known, including four Qur'ans. One of these Qur'ans, recently discovered, consists of 534 folios 23 x 16 cm, 29 of which have been replaced. The text in Naskh script is written on each page in a 14 x 9.4 cm frame. The binding is Safavid. This book is estimated £ 600K for sale by Christie's in London on April 2 (postponed to June 25), lot 29.
1480 Fritware Pottery in Iznik
2018 SOLD for £ 5.4M including premium
The new craft is inspired by the Chinese blue and white, best known to the Ottomans through the Persian Timurid pottery center at Kashan. The fritware paste with a high content of siliceous rocks does not make it possible to obtain the hardness of a porcelain. The decorations of the early Iznik ceramics juxtapose the vegetal patterns in the Chinese taste and the arabesques of the Ottoman metalwork. This mixed style is named rumi-hatayi.
Blue is obtained by cobalt but the concentration of underglaze pigment is poorly controlled, generating a too intense color comparable to earlier phases of the Chinese blue and white. It will take about two decades for bright blue to be made in Iznik. Until about 1520 cobalt blue remains the only available color.
On October 24 in London, Sotheby's sells a charger from the Baba Nakkas period with a wide everted rim, lot 134 estimated £ 300K. It is 45 cm in diameter and 8 cm deep.
This piece has a documented provenance over more than half a century but had never been published. It joins an extremely limited population of four dishes of similar technique and dimensions, all of them preserved in museums. The rumi-hatayi Baba Nakkas ceramics is also known in other shapes : jars, candlesticks, flasks.
A rumi-hatayi bowl from the next phase circa 1510 was sold for £ 1.43M including premium by Christie's on April 10, 2014 over a lower estimate of £ 300K.
ca 1520 Portrait of Sultan Suleyman by a follower of Bellini
2019 SOLD for £ 5.3M including premium by Sotheby's
1525-1535 The King disguised as a Dragon
2011 SOLD 7.4 M£ including premium
The Persian poet Firdausi wrote the Shahnameh 1000 years ago. This Book of Kings collects the epic and heroic stories of his country since the creation of the world until the advent of Islam.
He was misunderstood in his lifetime, like all geniuses, but the Persian kings realized later that this text could be used as an apologia for royal power. Ismail, founder of the Safavid dynasty, encouraged artists to illustrate the Shahnameh, but the great work was an illuminated manuscript created in the early reign of his son and successor Tahmasp.
This highly important manuscript has been dismantled. One can, or even have to, regret it but the corollary is that each folio coming on the market is considered as a work of art in its own right.
On April 6 in London, Sotheby's sells a gouache heightened with gold, 47 x 32 cm. Made in Tabriz between 1525 and 1535 of our calendar, it is attributable to Aqa Mirak who was one of the best artists of this collection. It is estimated £ 2M.
It shows the king Faridun who disguises himself as a fierce dragon to test the courage and loyalty of his three sons. He could rejoice in the result and particularly appreciate the haughty answer made by the youngest: Go your way, dragon, we are the sons of the powerful Faridun.
This work will soon be exhibited in Doha. On this occasion, it is illustrated in the upper left of the article shared by The Peninsula Qatar.
POST SALE COMMENT
Sotheby's had announced this lot for a very long time and knew its value, of course.
The result, £ 7.4 million including premium, is very high, but the above discussion indicated the trend: each sheet of Shahnameh of Tahmasp is a work of art in its own right.
I have no doubt that this price will incite other sheets to come in future sales.
Safavid - The Carpet of Senator Clark
2013 SOLD 34 M$ including premium
One of them created one of the most exciting surprises in the history of auctions. Surfacing in Germany in October 2009, it was estimated € 900 by a local auctioneer. Christie's had a small intuition about the importance of the piece by providing an estimate of £ 200K. They sold it for £ 6.2 million including premium on April 15, 2010.
Now known as the carpet of the comtesse de Béhague, this Kirman in wool 339 x 153 cm was made with one of the more complex techniques identified as the 'vase' technique. This name is unrelated to the decorative pattern.
The carpet of Senator Clark will not create the same surprise as it has already been described for nearly a century as a masterpiece of Persian textile art. It was exhibited after the death of its owner in 1925 in a museum that de-accessions it now. It is estimated $ 5M, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on June 5. Here is the link to the catalog.
Its red background is rare and perhaps unique in its class, the sickle-leaf pattern variant of the 'vase' technique. Its fine floral motifs and its palmettes make it a vibrant and sumptuous artwork in 267 x 196 cm size.
It is always difficult to date and locate an old carpet, if not by considerations of its technical characteristics. The Clark carpet is Safavid and probably Kirman. It is comparable to the best known pieces woven during the reign of Shah Abbas 400 years ago.
POST SALE COMMENT
There is no price limit for the most outstanding art pieces. This extraordinary carpet was sold for $ 34M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's.
It is also shared by Wikimedia.
1627-1628 Indian inscribed diamond in a 1972 necklace assembly by Cartier
2011 SOLD for $ 8.8M including premium by Christie's
Cotton and Pashmina
2013 SOLD 4.8 M£ including premium
Measuring 388 x 411 cm, it has a classic repetitive decor of millefleurs, with a star lattice. The drawing of the edge is a later design. It was woven about 300 years ago, but its appeal is largely due to the fact that it is not oldest, once will not hurt!
Indeed, the great ancient Mughal carpets were in silk and are significantly degraded. The Vanderbilt specimen is in cotton, in ivory color for the warp and blue for the weft. The upper layer or pile with the decorative pattern is in pashmina which is a wool from Kashmir.
It is estimated £ 1.5 million, for sale by Christie's in London on October 8.
POST SALE COMMENT
This exceptional carpet from North India greatly exceeded its estimate. It was sold for £ 4.8M including premium.
The image of this magnificent piece of textile in very good condition is shared on Wikimedia:
1865-1870 A Maharajah converts to Islam
2009 SOLD 5.5 M$ including premium
He commissioned the creation of a carpet in pearls and gems, whose beauty can be worthy of the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad at Medina. This work unique in its kind was made, but the Maharaja died in 1870 before the gift was made. The carpet was retained by the family, and remained there for over a hundred years.
It looks in its patterns like a textile carpet centered with three rosettes, and otherwise based on the millefleurs motif fashioned in India in the previous century. It consists of two millions of natural pearls, hundreds of gems of all kinds and a countless colored glass beads.
Sotheby's, which sells it in Doha on March 19, does not publish the estimate but only the starting bid: 5 MUS$. For the moment it is the most extraordinary artwork that has been announced for auction this year.
POST SALE COMMENT
Sensing the difficulties in the market for Islamic art, Sotheby's had lowered its starting bid at $ 4.5 million. They have done well. The carpet of pearls was sold at $ 4.8 million hammer, $ 5.5 million including fees.
1880 Young Woman Reading by Osman Hamdy Bey
2019 SOLD for £ 6.7M including premium by Bonhams
1882 Osman Hamdi Bey, the Reformer of Ottoman Art
2016 SOLD for TL 13.5M (worth € 4.4M) including premium
Hamdi Bey came to Paris in 1860 and remained there for nine years. He studied with Gérôme and Boulanger in that city at the time when Orientalist painting enjoyed a great success. Deputy Director of the Ottoman protocol in 1871, he was to remain loyal to this dynasty threatened by decline.
Influenced by European culture, Hamdi Bey became director of the Imperial Museum in 1881 and founded in 1882 the Academy of Fine Arts that would enable young artists to develop their skills without an exile in Europe. He early had a remarkable pioneering achievement in the protection of the archaeological heritage of the Middle East.
He nevertheless does not abandon painting in these years of intense official activity. His scenes of mosques are typical for the time but his portraits of courtiers are in the following of the Qajar art of Persia to which he brings an increased emotion.
The full length portrait of an elegant and veiled Lady painted in oil on canvas in 1881, 185 x 104 cm, was sold for £ 3.4 million including premium by Sotheby's on May 30, 2008. In the same technique but a smaller format, the portrait painted in 1878 of a young scholar comfortably lying to study a document in Topkapi remained unsold in April 2012 at Sotheby's.
On May 14 in Istanbul, Artam Antik A.S. sells a view of the front of the Green Mosque, oil on canvas 185 x 100 cm painted in 1882. The sunny steps and entrance are animated with faithful in the best European Orientalist style. This artwork is estimated TL 10M equivalent to € 3.25M, lot 130. Here is the link to the website of the auction house.
I invite you to watch the post sale video shared on YouTube by the auction house :
1890 Good Readings with Hamdy Bey
2019 SOLD for £ 4.6M including premium
Osman came to Paris in 1860 at the age of 17 to complete his law studies. When he returned to Constantinople in 1869 with a French fiancée, he was an Orientalist artist, former student of the late Boulanger and friend of Gérôme.
He learned from his French masters the techniques of realistic figuration that are based on photographs. He will remain throughout his life a great servant of the Ottoman Empire. He disdains the scenes of artificial harems and keenly observes the religious practices and the luxurious costumes of the Turkish elites.
Hamdy Bey introduces progressive elements in his art, with a great subtlety that does not impeach his splendid cultural and administrative career. He stages himself with his family, probably to avoid remonstrances from other models. He is the only figurative painter in Turkey and his works have not been exhibited during his lifetime in his country.
For example the Lady of Constantinople wears the Islamic veil, but it is so transparent that it does not hide anything of her pretty face. This 185 x 109 cm oil on canvas painted in 1881 was sold for £ 3.4M including premium by Sotheby's on May 30, 2008. A smaller version is for sale at Dorotheum on October 23, 2019. Both have been narrated in this column.
The reading of sacred books is one of Hamdy Bey's favorite themes. His characters are made appealing by their passions or their carelessness. This deep humanism that leads the social criticism up to a pleasant mockery has no equivalent in European orientalist art, even less in Ottoman art.
Painted in 1878 with the atmosphere from Topkapi, the picture of a young prince sprawled on a couch for better focusing on his reading passed at Sotheby's on April 24, 2012. A young woman fooling her boredom by looking at a big book, oil on canvas 41 x 51 cm painted in 1880, was sold for £ 6.7M including premium by Bonhams on September 26, 2019 over a lower estimate of £ 600K.
On October 22 in London, Sotheby's sells Koranic Instruction, oil on canvas 80 x 60 cm painted in 1890, lot 21 estimated £ 3M.
In the luxurious interior of the Bursa Green Mosque, the standing teacher reads the book aloud without looking at the disciple. This serious man forgot to take off his babouches. The student is a mature man holding a closed book with a jaded attitude. He is a self-portrait of the artist, from a photograph that has been identified.