Lot 8
  • 8

Monir Farmanfarmaian

100,000 - 120,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Monir Farmanfarmaian
  • Triangle of Hope
  • signed and dated Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian 2007; signed and dated in Farsi 
  • reverse-glass painting, mirror, plaster and felt tip pen on wood in aluminium frame 
  • 110 by 110cm.; 43 1/4 by 43 1/4 in.


Leighton House Exhibition, London
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2008


London, Leighton House, Monir Farmanfarmaian; Geometry of Hope, 2008


Condition: This work is in very good condition, some surface imperfection to the plaster, in line with the artist's choice of medium and process, a 0.5cm broken mirror to the upper right section, some stains to the aluminium frame which can easily be cleaned by professional. Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration fails to convey the three-dimensionality and reflective nature of the mirror works.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

A master metalworker once told Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian that “everything is in geometry”, words that have stuck with the artist through her artistic journey as she employs geometric forms to connect the mathematical patterns of Iranian tradition with the minimalist shapes of Western abstraction. Though the artist’s oeuvre spans over multiple disciplines including pen-and-ink and marker drawings, prints on glass and metal, flower paintings and mixed-media collage, her career is best defined by her geometric mirror-works: “My work is largely based on geometry which, as you know, always begins with a single point and can move from there into a circle. Or a point can become three leading to a triangle, or four to a square, five to a pentagon, hexagon, octagon, and so on — it’s endless. I was inspired by the geometry I found in old mosques with their tile, metal, wood, and plaster work.” (Monir Farmanfarmaian in conversation with Lauren Oneil Butler in: Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Art Forum, 2015).

During the 1970s, Farmanfarmaian visited the Shah Cheragh mosque in Shiraz, Iran and the shrine’s “high-domed hall… covered in tiny square, triangular, and hexagonal mirrors,” similar to many other ancient Iranian mosques (Ariella Budick, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Infinite Possibility, Where prayer hall meets disco ball, The Financial Times, 2015). Mirror mosaics have decorated the interiors of the Iranian shrines and palaces since the 16th century. The artist explains how she became fascinated with the technique: "Around 1971, I went to a certain shrine [in Iran],…and I became very awed with the way the mirror pieces were reflecting back images of the people there – the beggars, the holy men. It was so beautiful, so magnificent. I was crying like a baby." (Monir Farmanfarmaian in conversation with Laura Barnett in: In Iran, life models wear pants, The Guardian, 2011). It was this event that provided a crucial turning point in Farmanfarmaian’s artistic journey. Monir strove to mix Iranian influences and the tradition of Ayeneh Kari with artistic practices outside of a strictly Iranian culture. She adds, “for me inspiration always comes from Iran, from my history, from my childhood, for better or for worse. I always go with the feeling of my eyes, and with my heart, and that is my main inspiration.” (Monir Farmanfarmaian cited in: Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Cosmic Geometry, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Damiani Editore and The Third Line, 2011, p.22).

Mirrors play a crucial role in Monir’s hypnotic oeuvre, visuals and traditions reflect off one another, creating an infinite doorway to eternity. Guided by the Iranian craftsman, Hajji Ostad Mohammad Navid, Monir produced many mosaics by cutting mirrors and glass into a variety of shapes. These were then arranged into compositions that recall elements of Sufism and Islamic art. Farmanfarmaian was notably the first contemporary artist to reinvent the Persian craft of Ayeneh Kari, the art of cutting mirrors into small pieces and placing them in decorative shapes over plaster, a technique traditionally passed on from father to son.

Sotheby’s is delighted to offer Triangle of Hope, an iconic work from this internationally revered artist’s oeuvre. The work continues to explore Monir’s affiliation with geometric mirror mosaics, this one taking the form of a triangle. In conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Monir was quoted as saying: “If you divide a circle at three points, it will be a triangle. In Islamic design the triangle is the intelligent human being.” Here the triangle may be symbolic of the soul, but to the artist and onlooker, it is a symmetrical and balanced form “that involves three points, three lines and infinite possibilities for combination…more concerned with the impact of geometry on the eye and the body than on the mind and the soul. As attentive as she is to the cosmological systems and philosophical reflections inscribed in her work, the triangle is a quotation of the human body in first and a symbol second, and a distant second at that. It is a useful and beautiful piece of a larger metaphysical puzzle and the generative key to a dynamic diagram, as opposed to the divine realization of a natural order.” (the artist in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist in: Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Cosmic Geometry, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Damiani Editore and The Third Line, 2011, p.69). 

This scientific approach of the artist to her “sculptures” is strongly reminiscent of Leonardo Da Vinci’s most ground-breaking anatomical study of the Vitruvian Man from 1490. Da Vinci’s correlations between the human body and its natural environment lead him on a constant quest for harmony between all the elements that “direct” us. His research was based on a 30BC treatise De Architectura (On Architecture) written by one of Caesar Augustus’ architects and military engineers, Marcus Vitrivious Pollio. Pollio addressed many fields ranging from mathematics to astronomy, meteorology, and medicine in his approach. In the Roman conception, architecture needed to take into account everything touching on the physical and intellectual life of man and his surroundings. This book was the pillar for Da Vinci’s research in understanding his environment. The Vitruvian Man drawing is often used as an implied symbol of the essential symmetry of the human body, and by extension, of the universe as a whole.  Monir Farman Farmaian, in this important work presented by Sotheby's, refers to the fundamental and sacred geometry of the triangle – at the basis of every aspect of the human environment.