LONDON - It was love at first sight. Not that I hadn’t seen many a glorious rival over the years of holding, touching and admiring other exquisite creations. After all, there is little to challenge the beauty of a superb Safavid textile or an early Quran. But this deceptively humble Iznik water flask, this inexplicably perfect ode to shape and colour, offered in our Arts of the Islamic World sale, stole my heart. It’s when you come across such objects that you begin to understand the passion of the true collector. One could enumerate all the rational and logical reasons why this Iznik relic is of great value:
A unique Iznik pottery water flask (matara), Turkey, circa 1580-90.
a) That it exemplifies the use of forms and designs from other media frequently seen in the reign of Murad III in the late 1500s.
b) That it was exhibited at Leighton House Museum in 1982, published in Atasoy & Raby, 1989 and considered an extraordinary rarity
c) That it refers to two other similar, contemporary flasks at the Topkapi Saray Museum.
The Topkapi Saray, Istanbul.
But ultimately what sings to the viewer is the casual yet perfect juxtaposition of colours, the strong, primitive marbling pattern imitating carved stone, the charming shape and that perfect dot of green between the two spouts.... You can understand why a collector would forget reason and say to himself, “I must have this, whatever it takes.” For love is not given to reason, and passionate collectors have bought with dedication and an infatuated eye. The fact that some have, decades later, put together a valuable and priceless treasure-trove of artefacts or paintings is almost an accident of fate, like undying love in a marriage.
Someone will rob me of seeing this beauty on a daily basis, sitting demurely amongst a host of lesser creatures all vying for attention but never quite reaching Matara’s heights. Until then, I will relish the opportunity of her presence; I will hold her and enjoy her for a brief spell, as is the fate of many a love-story.
Arts of the Islamic World, Sotheby’s London, 24 April 2013