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
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
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
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.