Sotheby's Islamic art auction: 13th-century candlestick fetches £6.6m

Sale was a record for an Islamic object at Sotheby's

A 13th-century candlestick broke Sotheby’s record at auction for an object from the Islamic art world when it sold for £6.6 million ($9.1 million) after a 25-minute bidding contest.

Describing it as “the finest example of Islamic metalwork to appear on the market in over 10 years”, the renowned auction house had estimated that the silver-inlaid brass candlestick would fetch between £2 million and £3million ($2.3m-$3.5m).

Sotheby’s said the extended bidding had "captivated the sale room" until the hammer fell on the record price. Sotheby’s chairman for the Middle East and India told The National the figure was “fully justified”, calling the piece the “best of the best”.

"The results reflect the health of the market driven by a strong demand for top pieces. The silver and gold-inlaid candlestick was the best of its kind: rare and beautiful and of a quality worthy of a major museum,” Edward Gibbs said.

Made in what is now northern Iraq in about 1275, the ornament had been held in the same private collection since the 1960s and was recently exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The previous record for an Islamic object was held by the 15th-century Iznik pottery, Debbane Charger, which sold at Sotheby's for $6.9 million in 2018.

The new record-breaker was one of several illustrious pieces on offer at Sotheby’s Arts of the Islamic World and India auction, held twice a year, which included historic objects, paintings and manuscripts spanning 10 centuries. This year’s autumn edition of the bi-annual sale totalled £11.5m.

Other winning bids included a large brass astrolabe signed by the Arab explorer, Ibn al-Battuta, which sold for £499,000 and a Quran written in gold from 16th-century Persia that went for £380,000.

In an unexpected surprise, the other top lot of the auction, a pair of diamond and emerald spectacles, were not sold.

On offer at auction for the first time, the dazzling glasses were commissioned by an unknown prince in 17th-century Mughal India and were expected to go for between £1.5m and £2.5m. Exhibited in New York, Hong Kong and London before the sale, Sotheby’s said the “spectacular objects” had been “marvelled at” everywhere and were confident a buyer would snap them up.

“Anyone who has laid eyes on them is in no doubt that they are indeed something very special, and we have every faith that the huge interest we have seen will translate into a different result later down the line.”

Updated: October 28th 2021, 9:43 AM
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