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A Millenium of Middle Eastern Art at Sotheby's


Sotheby’s London, April 2016: This year marks the 40th anniversary of Britain’s World of Islam Festival, a ground-breaking series of exhibitions opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1976. That same year, Sotheby’s pioneered London’s first ‘Islamic Week’, which has taken place in April and October every year since. In celebration of these landmark events, Sotheby’s is staging its most wide-ranging series of exhibitions to cover the history of Middle Eastern art. A unique group of five fascinating sales, ranging from the contemporary to the ancient, will be accompanied by a programme of talks and lectures by leading scholars of the region.

The auctions include the first ever single-owner Modern and Contemporary Iranian sale, a relaunch of Sotheby’s Middle East Contemporary auction in London and rare and precious works of art from countries under Islamic patronage.

The Arts of the Islamic World auction presents beautiful objects which tell the story of over a thousand years of artistic exchange and influence in the Islamic world from China, to India, Persia, Turkey, North Africa and Europe. The sale includes one of the most important collections of early chess pieces to appear at auction, assembled by Lothar Schmid.

A magnificent Ottoman tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl, ivory and brass-inlaid scribe's box, Turkey, late 16th century (est. £200,000-300,000)

This opulent box is thought to have been a unique commission made for an individual of refined taste and high rank. Its decoration is characteristic of a richly eclectic period of Ottoman art in the mid/late-sixteenth century when artistic influences were assimilated from its newly- conquered territories and beyond to the furthest reaches of trade. Exploiting this unprecedented influx of ideas, materials and techniques, the maker arrives at a glorious synthesis of design elements fusing Safavid, Mughal, Mamluk and even Chinese influences in the creation of a highly original work of art with a strong degree of experimentation. Of museum-quality importance, this exceptional piece was formerly in a European private collection, the property of an ambassador to Turkey, reputedly received as a gift from the Ottoman sultan in the nineteenth century.

An extremely rare and finely decorated Qur’an leaf in eastern Kufic script, Persia or Central Asia, circa 1075-1125 AD (est. £200,000-300,000)

An example of one of the most striking and beautiful Qur'anic scripts, this folio originates from a Qur'an of majestic elegance and breathtaking graphic power. The decoration of the background of the entire text area throughout the manuscript marks it out as one of the most luxuriously decorated Qur'ans of the medieval period.

Other leaves from this dispersed Qur'an are held in prestigious collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and The Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

The Collection of Octave Borelli Bey
Octave Borelli Bey (1849-1911) was a distinguished lawyer, journalist and advisor to the Mehmet ‘Ali Pasha dynasty at the turn of the twentieth century – a time of tremendous change in Egypt. Borelli had a profound effect on the relations between France and Egypt, receiving many honours for his services including the French ‘Légion d’Honneur’ and the Persian ‘Commander of the Lion and Sun’. Returning to France in 1900, he brought back a part of the rich culture in which he had been immersed for 20 years. The collection gives an insight to his unique life and reflects his love and admiration for Egypt’s culture.

The collection is led by a pair of magnificent 14th-century Mamluk carved wood and ivory-inlaid panels from Egypt, which were then mounted as doors in the 19th-century (est. £100,000-120,000). These present an outstanding example of wood carving of the period, with the complexity of the geometric design representative of Islamic mathematical notions.

The first-ever single-owner Modern and Contemporary Iranian sale, the collection of a major Iranian artist and curator, Fereydoun Ave, brings together a treasure-trove of artworks from across continents and cultures.

An artist himself - known as an Iranian Warhol - he has also been one of the key figures in the development of forward-looking Iranian art – serving as a mentor to up and coming artists, opening a space in Tehran and participating in major shows around the world. His works are held by museums such as The British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

The sale includes outstanding works by Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, Charles Hossein Zenderoudi, Hervé Van Der Straeten and Farhad Moshiri.

Farhad Moshiri, Untitled (From the Jar Series), 2001 (est. £100,000-150,000)

Reinterpreting the traditional Persian calligraphic practice sheets widely mastered during the Safavid dynasty, this work marks the beginning of the artist’s exploration of the writing system’s physical and symbolic significance. Moshiri draws on Eastern and Islamic aesthetics to celebrate the visceral beauty of form, whilst hinting at the exciting possibilities of hidden meanings. Part of his first exhibition in 2001, in Tehran, this painting was acquired directly from the artist in 2002.

Monir Farmanfarmaian, Untitled (Faravahar Wings, Zarathustra), 2008 (est. £80,000- 100,000)

  • 15.04.2016 - 21.04.2016
    Auktion »
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus »

    The Library of Mohamed and Margaret Makiya: 19 April, 10.30am – browse catalogue.
    The Orientalist Sale: 19 April, 2.30pm – browse catalogue .
    Arts of the Islamic World: 20 April, 10.30am – browse catalogue.
    20th Century Art / Middle East: 20 April, 3.00pm – browse catalogue.
    Alchemy: Objects of Desire: 21 April, 2.00pm – browse catalogue.

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  • A Millenium of Middle Eastern Art at Sotheby's
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus