A millennium of Mideast art

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London / Emirates Business

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Britain’s World of Islam Festival, a ground-breaking series of exhibitions opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1976. That same year, Sotheby’s pioneered London’s first ‘Islamic Week’, which has taken place in April and October every year since. In celebration of these landmark events, Sotheby’s is staging its most wide-ranging series of exhibitions to cover the history of Middle Eastern art. A unique group of five fascinating sales, ranging from the contemporary to the ancient, will be accompanied by a programme of talks and lectures by leading scholars of the region.

Arts of the Islamic World
This auction presents beautiful objects which tell the story of over a thousand years of artistic exchange and influence in the Islamic world from China, to India, Persia, Turkey, North Africa and Europe.

A Ottoman tortoiseshell from late 16th century (£200,000-300,000)
This opulent box is thought to have been a unique commission made for an individual of refined taste and high rank. Its decoration is characteristic of a richly eclectic period of Ottoman art in the mid/late-sixteenth century when artistic influences were assimilated from its newly-conquered territories and beyond to the furthest reaches of trade.

Decorated Qur’an leaf in eastern Kufic script, Persia or Central Asia from 1075-1125 AD (£200,000-300,000)
An example of one of the most striking and beautiful Qur’anic scripts, this folio originates from a Qur’an of majestic elegance and breathtaking graphic power. The decoration of the background of the entire text area throughout the manuscript marks it out as one of the most luxuriously decorated Qur’ans of the medieval period. Other leaves from this dispersed Qur’an are held in prestigious collections.
The Collection of Octave Borelli Bey : A distinguished lawyer, journalist and advisor to the Mehmet ‘Ali Pasha dynasty at the turn of the twentieth century — a time of tremendous change in Egypt, Borelli had a profound effect on the relations between France and Egypt,.

The first-ever single-owner Modern and Contemporary Iranian sale, the collection of a major Iranian artist and curator, Fereydoun Ave, brings together a treasure-trove of artworks from across continents and cultures. An artist himself – known as an Iranian Warhol – he has also been one of the key figures in the development of forward-looking Iranian art.

Farhad Moshiri, Untitled from the Jar Series, 2001 (£100,000-150,000)
Reinterpreting the traditional Persian calligraphic practice sheets widely mastered during the Safavid dynasty, this work marks the beginning of the artist’s exploration of the writing system’s physical and symbolic significance. Moshiri draws on Eastern and Islamic aesthetics to celebrate the visceral beauty of form, whilst hinting at the exciting possibilities of hidden meanings.

Monir Farmanfarmaian, Untitled (Faravahar Wings, Zarathustra), 2008 (£80,000-100,000)
This timeless yet contemporary work brings together the decorative elements of Iranian traditional craft with Western abstraction – in playful yet poignant homage to Islamic geometry and the ancient roots of Iranian culture.

The 20th Century Art / Middle East sale marks the relaunch of Sotheby’s vibrant and exciting international platform for modern and contemporary arts from North Africa, Turkey, the Middle East and Iran in London.

Mahmoud Mokhtar, On the Banks of the Nile, 1921 (est. £120,000-180,000)
Mahmoud Mokhtar depictions of the struggle for political independence and the emancipation of women in Egypt in the first decades of the 20th-century are unparalleled. This work, characterised by the elegance and determined posture of the present water carrier echoing the aesthetic of the great sculptures of Ancient Egypt and the fashionable Parisian Art Deco, is typical of his oeuvre.
Paul Guiragossian, Karantina Camp (Bourj Hammoud), circa 1964 (est. £30,000-40,000)
One of the most versatile and avant-garde Lebanese painters of his generation, Guiragossian was born to Armenian parents, survivors of the Armenian Genocide and experienced the consequences of exile from a very tender age.

Adel Abidin, I’m Sorry, 2008 (est. £20,000-30,000)
“This work sums up my first visit to the USA. During that visit I met many people from different social backgrounds and their reaction, once they knew where I was from, was always the same.

The Orientalist Sale showcases important Orientalist paintings of Turkey, North Africa, the Levant, and the Middle East.

Ludwig Deutsch, Morning Prayers, 1902 (est. £500,000-800,000)
Ludwig Deutsch, an Austrian artist working in Paris who first travelled to Cairo in the early 1880s, is revered for his breathtakingly observed scenes notable for their meticulous details. A luminous masterpiece, this work demonstrates the artist’s respect for Muslim worship.

John Frederick Lewis, Outdoor Gossip, 1873 (est. £300,000-500,000)
Among the other key offerings in the sale are a group of works by British artist traveller John Frederick Lewis, who spent ten years living in Cairo, dressing as an Egyptian and assimilating into Egyptian society.
Outdoor Gossip, a jewel-like oil of two gentlemen of Cairo exchanging news was exhibited with its companion painting Indoor Gossip at the Royal Academy in 1874 – the first time Lewis shows male and female gendered spaces as a deliberately contrasted pair. While his women are pampered, sequestered, enclosed, his men are relaxed, unrestricted and involved in debate, reflecting the perceived conventions of Eastern society. Four exquisitely fresh drawings by the aritst will also be presented, three figural, one of a mosque interior, which have descended in his family.

The single-owner sale of the library of distinguished Iraqi architect Mohamed Saleh Makiya, who died last year aged 101, and his wife Margaret reveals a collection of rare books and works on paper that embraces the culture of the Middle East and the wider Islamic world, and its connections with Europe.

Omar Khayyam, A collection of over 300 editions (est. £10,000-15,000)
A Persian poet, mathematician and astronomer, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) is an important selection of almost 1,000 poems and philosophical musings. This lot brings together an impressive collection containing rare limited or illustrated editions.

Pascal Xavier Coste, architectural drawings of Cairo from 1818-25 (est. £20,000-30,000)
Pascal Coste (1787-1879) was an architect from Marseilles, who travelled to Egypt from 1817 to 1827, having been employed to undertake various engineering projects by Mehmet ‘Ali – pasha and viceroy of Egypt, who encouraged the emergence of the modern Egyptian state.


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Farhad Moshiri copy

Lot 7 Lewis, Outdoor Gossip copy

Lot 9 Deutsch, Morning Prayers copy

Lot 175 copy



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