T his autumn’s sale of Arts of the Islamic World & India showcases the wondrous heritage left by artists active under Islamic patronage, from Spain and North Africa to the Middle East, Central Asia to India, and beyond.
We are honoured to present an exquisite leaf from the incomparable Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasp (r.1524-76), universally recognised as a monumental achievement of artistic skill, the zenith of Persian arts of the book. Attributed to the artist Mirza ‘Ali, the illustrated page demonstrates his mastery of both the figural and the natural, as the large composition spills into the margins, creating a captivating scene, filled with mesmerising detail.
Dating to the early Islamic period come two exceptionally rare tenth-twelfth century objects from both the east and west Mediterranean regions: a Fatimid calligraphic pottery jar, the finest surviving relic of lustreware produced in the early second millennium, and an Andalusian bronze multi-wick lamp stand, with decoration comprising animals, openwork vegetal motifs, and nielloed calligraphy. Other metalwork highlights include two silver-inlaid works of art from twelfth-century Herat: a penbox and ewer, the latter comprising delicate zodiacal designs, a highly ornate Safavid astrolabe signed by the master ‘Abd al-A’immah, and a near-complete set of early Islamic horse trappings, in superb condition.
From the Indian subcontinent, and appearing for the first time at auction, Betsy Salinger’s captivating collection of Indian Miniatures channels the mastery and lyricism of the Pahari, Rajasthani, Mughal and Deccani schools. This carefully curated selection of works is an ode to the virtuosity and diversity of Indian miniature art, as well as the taste and erudition of its collector.
An exceptional assortment of manuscripts and illustrations includes a monumental Qur’an leaf on vellum dating to the eighth century, a ravishing sixteenth-century Safavid Qur’an copied by a student of 'Ala al-Din Muhammad Tabrizi, and a dazzling double-sided page from the Imperial Mughal manuscript the Tarikh-i Alfi, ‘The History of a Thousand Years’.
William Dalrymple on the Folio from the Shah Tahmasp Shahnameh
Expert Voices: William Dalrymple on the Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasp
Power, Reverence, and Beauty
The Indian miniatures section of the sale will include paintings from various private collections the majority of which have not been seen on the market for the last thirty years. Spanning the fifteenth through to the early nineteenth century and representing the Mughal, Deccani and Rajput Courts, the paintings explore the themes of power, reverence and beauty.
Art of the Horse
Islamic culture holds a particular reverence for horses, an animal associated with nobility. Equestrian arts and related literature flourished in the early years after the Hegira, and horses became an integral part of Islamic visual culture.
A Timeline of the Qur’an
From the angular Kufic of the Umayyads to the opulent golds of the Ottoman courts, the following manuscripts exemplify the multitude of scripts and rich variety of ornamentation that developed within Qur’an production from the eighth to the nineteenth century.
- circa 750 AD
- 1159 AD
- circa 1370 AD
- 1472 AD
- 1575 AD
- circa 1675 AD
- 1748 AD
- 1821 AD
A monumental Qur'an leaf in Kufic script, Near East or North Africa, circa 750 ADWith the exception of the so-called 'Tashkent Qur'an', the monumental size of this folio is unsurpassed in early Kufic Qur'ans. It is written in a Kufic script classified as Group B.1b, an early derivative of the Hijazi style. The simplistic ornamentation that gives focus to the text is typical of the earliest period of Kufic Qur'ans in the eighth century.
An illuminated miniature Qur'an, Iraq, probably Baghdad, Seljuk, dated 27 Muharram 54 AH/24 February 1159 ADThis manuscript is of great significance demonstrating the refinement of the naskh script in the eleventh and twelfth centuries that followed Ibn al-Bawwab, who penned the earliest surviving Qur'an manuscript on paper, dated 391 AH/1000-1 AD (now in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin). The cursive script, gold surah headings and frontispiece comprising interlocked circles demonstrate the clear influence of its predecessor.
Two consecutive leaves from the 'Five Surahs', copied by Abu Muhammad 'Abdul Qayyum ibn Muhammad ibn Karamshah-i Tabrizi, Persia or Mesopotamia, probably Baghdad, Jalayrid, circa 1370 ADThe colophon of the manuscript, now housed in a private collection, gives the name of the scribe as Abu Muhammad 'Abdul Qayyum ibn Muhammad ibn Karamshah-i Tabrizi and it has been suggested that the manuscript was made for the Jalayrid ruler Shaykh Uways. The superb muhaqqaq script employed here pre-empts the style of imperial Ilkhanid Qur'ans such as the so called 'Baysunghur' Qur’an.
An illuminated Qur’an, copied by ‘Abd al-Latif al-Sayfi Uzbek, Egypt, Mamluk, dated 876 AH/1472 ADWhile it was not unusual for an official to present a Qur'an written by himself, this rare manuscript was copied by a member of the royal family, ‘Abd al-Latif al-Sayfi Uzbek, most likely belonging to the household of Sayf al-Din (Burji). The impressive scale and strong naskh are typical of the late Mamluk period which saw a revival under Sultan Qaytbay's patronage. The illuminated medallion at the end of the manuscript indicates that it was intended for a Sayfi ruler.
An exceptional illuminated Qur'an, copied by Yusuf ibn 'Abdullah student of 'Ala al-Din Muhammad Tabrizi, Persia, Safavid, dated 983 AH/1575-76 ADIncorporating two tones of gold in the opening illumination in contrast with a dazzling ultramarine lapis lazuli, this Qur'an exemplifies the height of Safavid illumination. The prowess of the scribe, Yusuf ibn 'Abdullah, is shown in the fine and balanced naskh, which is unsurprising as he was a student of one of the most renowned Safavid scribes, 'Ala al-din Tabrizi.
An illuminated Qur'an, India, Mughal, second half 17th centuryThe illumination of this Qur'an demonstrates the influence of Persian manuscripts that permeated the Mughal court in the seventeenth century. While the finely worked frontispiece is reminiscent of the mid-sixteenth century Shiraz style, the enhanced use of delicate lilac and vibrant orange are comparable to a Safavid Qur'an in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection that was re-illuminated in the Mughal courts under Shah Jahan (inv. no.QUR206).
An illuminated Qur'an, copied by Ibrahim known as Da'imi, student of Sheker-Zade Mehmed Efendi, Turkey, Ottoman, dated 1162 AH/1748-49 ADIn line with his passion for calligraphy, Sultan Ahmed III cultivated eminent scribes within his court including Shekerzade Mehmed Efendi who was tutor to the scribe of this manuscript, Ibrahim known as Da'imi. Book production under the sultan and his successors centred on precision and quality, with decorative schemes often dominated by opulent use of gold.
An illuminated Qur'an, commissioned by Aqa Muhammad Baqir and copied by Murtaza ibn al-Jawad, North India, Kashmir, dated 1237 AH/1821-22 ABy the eighteenth century, after the conquest of Kashmir by the Durrani Afghans, Kashmir re-emerged as the centre of book production in India with records of almost eight hundred copyists in the region. Despite the large number of scribes, signed and dated manuscripts from Kashmir are rare. The gold and blue palette is typical of Kashmiri production, but the striking cobalt-blue ground of the frontispiece is a more unusual feature.