Under the hammer: 9th century Islamic art



ABU DHABI // Historically significant art from the Middle East and the Indian Mughal era will go under the hammer in London today.

Christie's will auction more than 400 pieces as part of its "Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds" lot that covers the 9th to the 19th centuries.

"It is a pairing we have been doing for a little time," said William Robinson, Christie's international head of Islamic art.

"They go well together. It's not just the influence, but the more Mughal the pieces, the more crossover there is likely to be of Persian art."

The sale will start with 50 pieces from Mohammed Said Farsi's collection of Islamic Art.

Dr Farsi, who spent time in Jeddah and Alexandria in the 1950s, was one of the Middle East's great patrons. A

rare Fatimid Egyptian carved wood panel from 1150 taken from his collection is expected to sell from between £400,000 to £600,000 (Dh2.3 million to Dh3.4m).

Pieces from his collection will also feature at Christie's Dubai's second Modern Arab Art sale on October 26.

One of Mr Robinson's favourite pieces at today's event is a grey jade ram's head dagger, or khanjar, from 17th century Mughal India.

Its value is estimated at £30,000 to £40,000. The tapered, single-edged steel blade has delicate gold-work near the handle. And the intricately carved ram's eyes are inset with small rubies within gold mounts.

"It's a fantastic bit of carving," he said. He said the auction also contained a number of historically significant documents.

For example, a letter expressing a desire for friendship from Sultan Mahmud II of the Ottoman empire to Prince Abbas Mirza in Persia, dated 1817-1818, is decorated in two-colour gold.

The centre of the letter contains flower sprays and the crest of the sultan. The letter is said to be in good condition. Its estimated value is £25,000 to £35,000.

Mr Robinson said it took five months to bring the collection together. In most instances, he was approached by sellers who sent him photographs of pieces in need of restoration.

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae

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