Zodiac basin from 12th century sells for £3.1m in Sotheby’s auction

Rare item sells for triple initial estimate at Sotheby’s London auction

A stunning 12th century zodiac basin sold for £3.1 million ($4.2m) in an auction of rare Asian valuables at Sotheby’s in London.

The silver-inlaid, scalloped basin, adorned with intricate astrological designs, was given an estimate of £1m-£1.5m before going under the hammer on Wednesday.

But a protracted bidding war between four prospective buyers saw its price soar to more than three times the initial figure.

The rare objet d’art was crafted in the shape of the sun and features zodiac signs, solar symbols, planets, animal heads and calligraphic scripts. Art experts said it was made to symbolise the universe and harness its energy.

The basin is crafted in the shape of the sun and features zodiac signs, solar symbols, planets, animal heads and anthropomorphic calligraphic scripts. Sotheby’s
The basin is crafted in the shape of the sun and features zodiac signs, solar symbols, planets, animal heads and anthropomorphic calligraphic scripts. Sotheby’s

The basin had never been displayed in public before as it was held in a private family collection for decades.

It was part of a wider Arts of the Islamic World & India auction, which celebrated historic artefacts and paintings from Asia dating across 10 centuries.

Items included a 14th century astrolabe which sold for £741,000. It is the only known version created by a Muslim artist in a Christian-ruled city, Tudela in Spain.

A Khurasan, silver-inlaid, bronze inkwell from the 11th century was bought for £277,000.

Leading the paintings in the sale, a newly discovered, 17th century portrait of Ottoman ruler Suleyman the Magnificent more than quadrupled its estimate to sell for £438,000.

Experts said the “vibrant, Venetian brushwork opens a window on to a narrative of artistic exchanges in the 1530s”.

A portrait of Mihrimah Sultan, daughter of Suleyman, painted in 17th century Italy, went for £75,600, nearly nine times its estimate.

Sotheby’s said the sale continued the strong interest in items from the Islamic world. In 2020, it sold a 15th-16th century Mamluk carpet for £1.9m, a Mughal gem-set and enamelled gold flask for £983,000 and a mid-13th century gilded glass flask for £837,800.

The auction house said the sale exceeded expectations, raking in £9.5m.

Updated: March 31, 2021 08:51 PM

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