London's Orientalist & Middle Eastern Week Highlights in Dubai

Launch Slideshow

Later this month Sotheby’s in Dubai will be hosting a selection of highlights from the upcoming London Orientalist & Middle Eastern Week sales. The exhibition, which is open from 20–24 March, will give guests the opportunity to preview stunning works from the 20th Century Art / Middle EastArts of the Islamic World and Orientalist Sale. Click ahead to see a selection of the highlights that will be on display.

London's Orientalist & Middle Eastern Week Highlights in Dubai

  • A unique Iznik blue and white pilgrim flask with animals, Turkey, circa 1545-55.
    Estimate £60,000–80,000.
    This flask appears to be the only known example of an Iznik flask of this distinctive shape. The potter has also succeeded in creating a truly organic form arising from two rounded sections of pottery that were fired together, then adding the spout and handles. One side is slightly concave whilst the other convex, with a little boss, imitating metalwork models, and fitting perfectly between both hands. Decorated in the early blue and turquoise of the mid-sixteenth century with a fantastical mix of animals, is one of the earliest instances in which this design that was later to become so popular, appears. 

  • A carved jade and gilt metal Qur'an stand, India, circa 19th century.
    Estimate £4,000-6,000.
    Qur'an stands worked from jade and other hardstones are extremely rare. Stands such as this were designed to hold large Qur'ans and could be found in both mosques and tombs. The legs were designed as lobed archways reminiscent of Mughal architecture.

  • A diamond-set and enamelled necklace and earrings, India, 20th century.
    Estimate £6,000–8,000.
    This beautifully crafted necklace is set with more than one hundred facet-cut diamonds and polychrome luminous enamel decoration on the reverse. The openwork design of flowerheads, geometric in form, remains nonetheless supple as they are set along flexible chains so that the necklace fits comfortably on the chest. Created in the 20th century with a matching pair of earrings, it demonstrates the influence of Mughal jewellery on craftsmen using similar designs over two centuries later.

  • An Arabic translation of Euclid’s ‘Elements’, North Africa, probably Egypt, 13th century.
    Estimate £200,000-300,000.
    An early Arabic translation of Ptolomy’s Almagest, Persia, dated 671 AH/1272-73 AD
    Estimate £200,000-300,000.
    Thanks to the medieval Arabic scientific tradition, many Greek texts have been preserved and transmitted to us through the centuries. These two early copies of Euclid’s ‘Elements’ and Ptolomy’s Almagest were both copied in the thirteenth century, in North Africa and Persia  respectively, and bear witness to this important phase of transmitting Classical knowledge.

  • Theodoros Ralli, Stringing Pearls, 1882.
    Estimate £80,000–120,000.
    Stringing Pearls is a rediscovery in Ralli’s oeuvre, and perfectly captures his exceptional skill at depicting intimate scenes of daily life in Egypt. Seated on an ornamented wooden bench adorned with elegant silk cushions, a Nubian man dressed in yellow silk carefully strings white teardrop pearls into a necklace.

    Pearl cultivation and the pearl trade were integral to the Middle East region’s economy before the discovery of oil and gas, and the advent of industrially produced pearls. Fashioned into necklaces and bracelets, or to embellish jewellery, natural pearls supplied from the region were prized by jewellers all around Europe.
  • Eugène Girardet. Evening Prayers.
    Estimate £150,000-200,000.
    Scenes of prayer occupy a central position in nineteenth-century Orientalist art. Evening Prayers is not only a splendid evocation of the North African desert, but affords a fascinating glimpse into the rituals of Muslim worship. In the cool shade cast by the building behind them, a group of men on a rooftop face Mecca in prayer. The initial invocation to God, or takhbir, performed standing, is over. Two of the men remain on their feet but are about to join the two figures nearest the viewer to sit upright in a brief moment of reflection before the sujud or prostration - already being performed by the two farthest figures - during which the forehead is reverently placed to the ground.

  • Charles Wilda, A Souk in Cairo, 1887.
    Estimate £120,000-180,000.
    Painted in 1887, this street view of Cairo is a striking example of the nineteenth-century Orientalist views which opened up a new world to European viewers. The hustle and bustle of women carrying water jugs and snake charmers, rendered with photographic realism, brilliantly evoked the souks and streets of a city beyond the reach of many. In the background, the striated red and white brick buildings so typical of the Egyptian capital inspired artists and architects alike.

  • Charles Tschaggeny, An Arabian in the Desert, 1858.
    Estimate £60,000-80,000.
    With a distinctive head shape, high tail carriage, and quadratic profile (its height matching its length) the Arabian is one of the most recognizable horse breeds in the world, as well as one of the oldest, dating back to the third century B.C.E. Throughout history, Arabian horses have spread around the world through war and trade, used to improve other breeds by adding speed, refinement, endurance, and strong bone structure. Today, Arabian bloodlines are found in almost every modern breed of riding horse.

  • Bahman Mohasses, Il Minotauro fa Paura alla Gente per Bene (The Minotaur Scares the Good people).
    Estimate £280,000–350,000.
    The Minotaur Scares the Good People is a rare and unique example of Bahman Mohasses’ best work from the 1960s, the artist’s most sought after period to date.  Affected not just by his environment but also by the socio-political events of that decade, Mohasses began to experiment with increasingly amputated creatures and mise-en-scenes to express his anguish and harsh disenchantment with man's ability to be anything other than condemned. Born in Rasht, Iran (b. 1931-2010) Bahman Mohasses moved to Italy in 1954 which influenced his oeuvre significantly. Mohasses became a legendary artistic figure whose remaining iconic works (a large number were deliberately destroyed by the artist) form an invaluable resource to understand Iranian modernism.

  • Monir Farmanfarmaian, Recollections I
    Estimate £160,000–200,000.
    Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian is considered one of the most celebrated and revered contemporary artists of our time. Recollections I is an inherently personal and nostalgic work by this internationally revered artist who spent most of her life in Tehran and New York. Farmanfarmaian reaches near perfection with a rare work blending intricate hexagonal mirrors carrying an ever growing mystical meaning close to Sufi notions such as a reflection of the self, alongside the flowers on reverse-glass paintings, an ode to the old Qajar paintings. These typical Persian motifs would be recreated to become modern geometric artworks, each piece mesmerizingly kaleidoscopic in nature. Monir Farmanfarmaian attended Cornell University and then went on to study at Parsons The New School for Design in the late 1940s. She had a retrospective show at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2015 and the Monir Museum has opened in Tehran in 2017. 

  • Sohrab Sepehri, Untitled (Tree Trunks and Village Scene).
    Estimate £200,000-300,000.
    Poet and painter Sohrab Sepehri, born in 1928 in the desert town of Kashan, is probably one of the most recognizable and treasured of all the Iranian modern masters.  He attended the Fine Arts College of Tehran University in 1948. His works were included in the first and second Tehran Biennials and soon after his move to Rome, he also showed at the Venice Biennale in 1958. Sepehri eventually went to Japan in 1960 to study wood engraving.He was known for his passionate love of nature, especially of the desert around his native Kashan. His work is a testament to a repeated desire to return to the solace of his homeland's colours and inspiration. The Zen-like ambiance of his Tree series, while undoubtedly influenced by what he had seen and learned in Japan, relate to the same spirituality and meditativeness of the desert. His artistic genius refined and distilled this vision of an archetypal trees into an artistic topos executed in an unmistakable style which is at once abstract and realistic. He would distil forms into their most refined simplicity, almost reducing them to the level of ‘mark making’.

  • Shakir Hassan Al Said, The Orchard of Knowledge. Oil on canvas, 1952.
    Estimate £60,000–80,000.
    Shakir Al-Said was the most versatile Iraqi artist of his generation – a curious, emancipated and adventurous explorer who relentlessly pushed the boundaries of Iraqi modernism throughout his lifetime. Towards the beginning of his career in the early 1950s, he sought to question notions of Iraqi national identity. The Orchard of Knowledge is a spiritual depiction of a form of paradise through a variety of brightly coloured birds, each mid-flight, communicating with one another. In this iconic depiction of abundant, colourful foliage flourishing around a central tree, the artist embraces a subject matter that was dear to him in the early 1950s; the glorification of The Creator and his creatures.

  • Mahmoud Saïd, Adam and Eve, 1937. Oil on canvas.
    Estimate £300,000–500,000.
    Mahmoud Said is seen as the founder of modern Egyptian art  at the turn of the century, his oeuvre is a dialogue between European history of art and the sensuous qualities of the modern Egyptian ethos. In Adam and Eve, Said depicts two central figures pictured as tall, imposing, almost surreal figures in a lovers' embrace within a lush desert oasis featuring ripened palm trees, pooling blue canals of the Nile and rolling far-off sand dunes - an idyllic yet familiar Egyptian landscape. Said’s technique reveals a true mastery of oil painting: his gradating warm pigments are in harmony with his cooler colours in a balanced compositional flow, a convention inspired by Flemish artists Jan Van Eyck and Hans Memling. By introducing a universal Biblical subject juxtaposed with a traditional Egyptian landscape, Said encourages the viewer, whether they be an ordinary Egyptian or from the aristocracy, to imagine themselves as worthy and equal.

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