A Thousand Years of Beauty: Arts of the Islamic World

Launch Slideshow

The Arts of the Islamic World sale spans an enormous geographical and historical range, covering art produced under Islamic patronage across North Africa, Spain, the Middle East, Persia and India over a period of more than a thousand years. Among its finest pieces are a pair of extremely rare, large-scale Safavid oil portraits from a distinguished Persian private collection, and a beautiful coat, meticulously embroidered with thousands of Basra seed pearls, from the opulent courts of the 19th-century Indian Maharajas, along with many more exquisite pieces. Click through to see the sale highlights.

Arts of the Islamic World
25 October 2017 | London

A Thousand Years of Beauty: Arts of the Islamic World

  • A Portrait of a Lady Holding a Rose and Glass, Persia, Isfahan, Safavid, circa 1660-1700. Estimate: £850,000–1,000,000.
    This extremely rare example of large-scale 17th-century Safavid oil painting is one of only 15 such paintings known to exist, and among the first to be inspired by Europe. Around the early 17th century, as interest in the culture and art of Europe increased in Persia, European paintings of this kind were highly sought-after at the Safavid court. This piece, along with its companion ( Lot 115 ), may have been painted as marriage or betrothal portraits.

  • A magnificent Royal coat embroidered with Basra seed pearls, India, 19th century. Estimate: £180,000–250,000.
    This magnificent royal tunic, embroidered with thousands of Basra seed pearls, exemplifies the splendour and sophistication of the opulent courts of the Maharajas in the late 19th century. It also bears eloquent witness to an ancient and thriving sea-trade which supplied bounteous quantities of natural pearls harvested in the Arabian Gulf to the princely families of South Asia.


  • Two volumes from juz' II of Kitab kamil al-sina’ah al-tibbiyah ('The Complete Book of the Medical Art'), dated 616 AH/1219–20 AD. Estimate: £70,000–100,000.
    Kitab kamil al-sina’ah al-tibbiyah, also known as Al-Kitab al-Malaki, was completed by al-Majusi around 980 AD. The work emphasises the need for a healthy relationship between doctors and patients, and the importance of medical ethics. It also provides details on a scientific methodology that is similar to modern biomedical research. The work comprises two books: the first juz’ is on medical theory in ten sections (maqalahs) and the second on therapeutics, also in ten sections. Other important texts in this sale include Lots 15 and 16 .

  • A large Ottoman voided silk velvet and metal-thread panel (çatma) with carnations, Bursa or Istanbul, late 16th century. Estimate: £80,000–120,000.
    Although luxurious Ottoman fabrics, especially damasks from Bursa, were in great demand locally and abroad, it is rare to find complete çatma panels such as the present example in such good condition and in which even the narrow geometric inner frame is visible. Decorated with flowers closely associated with the Ottoman Court, it was designed in the so-called 'quatre-fleurs style', in honour of the four most commonly used flowers: the tulip, hyacinth, rose and the carnation. This large panel would most probably have been used either as a wall hanging, curtain or divan cover.

  • A portrait of Mirza 'Ali Asghar Khan (Amin al-Mulk al-Sultan, Atabeg-i Azam), signed by Isma’il Jalayir, Persia, Qajar, circa 1880. Estimate: £80,000–120,000.
    Works by Isma'il Jalayir are extremely rare and highly sought-after. Indeed, only a handful of works by the artist are recorded in private collections. Isma’il Jalayir was the son of Haki Muhammad Zaman Khan Jalayir of Khurasan. He was one of the most gifted artists and teachers at the School of Arts of the Dar al-Funun, the academy established in Tehran in 1851 by Nasir al-Din Shah (the School of Arts was established in 1861), but it is likely that he was known as a painter before he entered the Dar. The portrait is of Mirza Ali Asghar Khan, a politician and courtier who, during the 1870s and 1880s, became progressively more powerful until he controlled most of the government offices and was the Shah’s closest advisor.

  • A large silver tribal or ritual mask of Nandi, South India, 18th century. Estimate: £10,000–15,000.
    Composed of solid silver, this ritual mask would have been presented at the temple as an offering of thanks and consecrated by the priest (pujari). Masks such as this would have been considered as property of the Deity and taken out in procession during religious festivals. This mask represents the bull Nandi ('The Happy One') which was Shiva’s 'vahana' (vehicle) and, according to some, the embodiment of the God’s strength and virility. Southern Indian masks of Deities in silver are very rare, and the present example reveals an outstanding level of workmanship. 

  • An old shepherd leaning on his staff in a landscape, signed by Mu'in Musavvir, Persia, Isfahan, Safavid, dated 19 Rabi' al-Awwal 1087 AH/1676 AD. Estimate: £80,000–120,000.
    Mu’in Musavvir was one of the greatest artists of the 17th century and one of the most prolific. He was a student of the great court painter Reza-i Abbasi, and a portrait of his master by Mu’in survives in the Princeton University Library. This portrait of a shepherd leaning on his staff is an important example of his single-figure portraits. It's based closely on a work by Reza-i 'Abbasi ('The Old Shepherd') featuring a bearded shepherd leaning on his staff, a depiction popular among Persian painters of the period. The inscriptions not only provide the artist's signature and the date of execution, but tell us that the painting was completed specifically for an album - 'be-jehat-e moraqqa be-etmam rasid - a highly unusual occurrence.

  • A rare carved jade powder horn with brass leopard mount, India, Jaipur, 18th century. Estimate: £15,000–25,000.
    This finely carved jade powder horn, or priming flask, delicately uses the two natural tones of the jade to enhance its design. The tapering, darker end features the head of an ibex, recognisable by its two long twisted horns, from whose mouth the powder would pour. It is being attacked by a leaping leopard activated by a lever to open and close. Derived from similar models made of natural horn or ivory, jade examples are rarer. 


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