The Princely Collection comprises an impressive array of major objects, some without parallel at auction, offering a unique opportunity for private collectors and museums to acquire works of exceptional rarity and importance. In its entirety the collection offers a representation of the material culture of the Islamic world, covering the main periods, regions and media. It is highly unlikely that similar items will appear on the open market in the near future.
This exceptional collection expresses the quintessential qualities of Islamic art, evoking the spirit of learning and inquiry promoted under Muslim patronage at a time when the greater part of Europe was struggling to emerge from the Dark Ages. One of the pillars of Islamic art, the arts of the book, are gloriously represented within the collection by a spectacularly illuminated Qur'an from 16th century Persia (lot 26) and a tafsir al-Qur'an almost certainly made for Shah Tahmasp, and copied at Mecca by the royal scribe Kamal Al-Din Husain Al-Hafiz Al-Haravi (lot 28). There are also splendid examples of Kufic script from the early centuries of Islam, exemplified by the breathtakingly opulent, yet subtle simplicity of a Qur'an leaf executed in gold on blue-dyed vellum (lot 7), an echo of a now ancient rivalry between the traditions of the early Islamic period and the Byzantine Empire. A rare and important Qur'an from Brunei (lot 47) is dated 1660 AD and dedicated to the then Sultan of Brunei, Muhyiddin (r.1655-70), whilst a further Qur'an displays fine and beautiful illumination typical of the Deccani sultans of 16th-century India (lot 41).
The rich selection of medieval ceramics, glass and wood pieces within the collection impress upon the viewer the aesthetic harmony of their colours and designs, as well as a perfect balance between intellectual satisfaction and physical enjoyment. A Central Asian pottery bowl, for example, displays a sparse yet striking stylised pattern comprising the letter alif on a simple yellow splashed ground (lot 65), whilst a 10th or 11th century enamelled gold pendant from Egypt or Syria combines three complex artistic techniques: filigree, granulation and cloisonné enamelling (lot 71). The extraordinary degree of sophistication and refinement of a piece a mere three centimetres in diameter suggests a royal commission, a theme which runs throughout the collection.
The elegance and sure rhythm of the Islamic artistic tradition is further epitomised by two examples of rare early Islamic woodwork. The first, among the greatest treasures in the collection, is a pair of carved wooden doors from 12th-13th century Central Asia (lot 91) which fuse traditional Islamic calligraphy with the a complex pattern of both geometric forms and arabesques of a kind which were used as decorative themes across the breadth of the Islamic World, from Morocco to Brunei. The second piece, a 15th century carved and painted wood chest from Persia (lot 94), also represents a great rarity in terms of its survival, as well as its crisp and intricate carved decoration.