Sotheby’s first sold Qur’ans and manuscripts nearly three centuries ago – in 1755, as part of the library of an Oxford don that was offered at auction. Today, London’s ‘Islamic Week’ (held biannually in April and October) is the focal point in the Islamic art diary, attracting collectors, curators and connoisseurs from across the globe. The department’s sales offer a spectrum of classical arts from the Middle East and wider Islamic World, featuring a range of manuscripts in Arabic, Persian and Turkish as well as miniatures, paintings, ceramics, metalwork, arms and armour, glass, jewellery and many other fine decorative objects.
Sotheby’s Middle East Department is privileged to have handled some of the most important single-owner collections ever to come to auction, including: The Kevorkian Foundation Collection (1967-83), totalling over thirty auctions containing some six thousand lots; The Bachofen von Echt Collection of Indian Painting (1992); The British Rail Pension Fund Collection (1994 & 1996); The Aryeh Family Collection (1999); The Collection of the Berkeley Trust (2004); A Princely Collection (2010); The Stuart Cary Welch Collection (Parts One & Two, April/May 2011); The Sven Gahlin Collection (2015), The Khosrovani-Diba Collection (2016), and The Howard Hodgkin Collection (2017). Sotheby’s Middle East Department holds the records for any Islamic work on paper and object ever sold: a folio from the Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasp, sold for £7,433,250, and a Mamluk armorial candlestick made for Sayf al-Din Qashtumur, sold for £4,521,250 (both April 2011).
Our international team is based in London and includes four highly experienced specialists who work in collaboration with Sotheby’s experts in New York, Paris, throughout Europe, The Middle East and India.