Harvard lecturer’s Persian manuscript may sell for $5m

  • Share via facebook
  • Tweet this
  • Bookmark and Share
Visitors stand next to artwork to be auctioned off by Sotheby's at 'Arts of the Islamic World' during a preview exhibition at a hotel in Doha

Visitors stand next to artwork to be auctioned off by Sotheby's at 'Arts of the Islamic World' during a preview exhibition at a hotel in Doha

A page from a 16th-century manuscript described by dealers as a masterpiece of Persian art is estimated to sell for as much as $5m at auction.

The illuminated sheet is one of the 258 illustrations to the epic “Shahnameh,” or “Book of Kings,” being offered by Sotheby’s Wednesday in its sale of Islamic works from the collection of the late Harvard lecturer Stuart Cary Welch.

“It’s the peak of Iranian art and one of the supreme examples of the art of the book,” the London-based dealer Brendan Lynch said in an interview.

The sale gives wealthy Middle Eastern buyers such as Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Art the chance to acquire one of the last illustrations from the book available on the open market. Welch’s painting shows the legendary king Faridun transformed into a dragon to test the courage of his sons.

The “Shahnameh” was made between 1520 and 1540 for Shah Tahmasp of the Safavid dynasty. The manuscript was owned - and broken up - by the US industrialist Arthur Houghton II, who donated 78 paintings to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1972.

Another 118 paintings were acquired from Houghton’s estate by the London-based dealer Oliver Hoare. In 1994, Hoare persuaded the Iranian government to accept these in exchange for Willem de Kooning’s 1952 painting “Woman III” in Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

Both were valued at £13m at the time and were swapped on the tarmac of Vienna airport, according to the UK’s Independent newspaper.

The Abstract Expressionist canvas was subsequently acquired by the US collector David Geffen in a sale brokered by the Zurich dealer Doris Ammann. Geffen in turn sold the painting to the billionaire hedge fund manager Steven A. Cohen for $137.5m in 2006, said the New York Times.

A Lucian Freud portrait of a former lover, valued between £3.5m and £4.5m, was one of five works by the British artist that attracted 2,500 people to a two-day exhibition in Moscow on April 2 and 3.

The first exhibition of works in Russia by the London-based painter, held at the Spiridonov House, was organized by Christie’s International to showcase Freud’s “Woman Smiling” and four early drawings that are being auctioned in London on June 28.

The 1958 head and shoulders portrait of Suzy Boyt, mother of four of the artist’s children, is being sold by a European private collector who has owned it since 1985. The four drawings, all dating from the mid-1940s, are owned by Kay Saatchi, the ex-wife of the collector Charles Saatchi. Estimates for each range from £80,000 to £400,000.

Russian and Chinese collectors are attracted to Freud’s classical technique used with a contemporary angle, said dealers. Roman Abramovich was the buyer of Freud’s 1995 “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” for $33.6m at Christie’s, New York, in May 2008, dealers said. The price was an auction record for a work by a living artist.

A 2008 Banksy work painted after Hurricane Katrina is being offered at an auction in London later this month.

The stenciled spray-paint on canvas, “Nola (Red),” showing a girl sheltering under an umbrella raining blood, is estimated to fetch between £50,000 and £80,000 at Bonhams’s sale of postwar and contemporary art and design on April 13.

The Bristol, England-born graffiti artist painted more than a dozen murals in New Orleans in September 2008.

“Three years after Katrina I wanted to make a statement about the cleanup operation,” Banksy said on his website. The seller was gifted the work by the artist and it is verified by Banksy’s Pest Control authentication office, said Bonhams.

Sotheby’s weeklong Hong Kong sale marathon yesterday moved to fine Chinese art and raised HK$648m ($83m) with fees, beating a hammer-price estimate of HK$150m.

The top lot, “Spring Mountains in Sichuan” by Zhang Daqian, fetched HK$64.5m, more than three times its estimate.

This came a day after a HK$182 million sale of contemporary Asian art, which set a record for Zhang Xiaogang’s “Bloodline” series, at the equivalent of $7.2m.

Join the Discussion

Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

Posted by: Yaghoub Sharifi

There's no such thing as "Islamic Art" or "Islamic civilization"! What is wrong with you western people! I'm an Iranian and Shahnameh has nothing to do with Islam. The book is actually anti-Islamic. It was written to save persian culture and language from the invasion of muslims. It is the greatest effort ever against the Islamization of Iran. Look at Egypt or Syria or Iraq today. They speak arabic and nothing from their pre-Islamic civilization left. Now, look at Iran. We speak Farsi and we still have Norooz and some other pre-Islamic traditions, why? Because we had Ferdowsi and Egypt and Syria and Iraq didn't.

Enter the words above: Enter the numbers you hear:

All comments are subject to approval before appearing

More from Arabian Business