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Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


16th century Persian folio from Shahnameh sets auction record


07 April 2011



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Edward Gibbs, head of Sotheby's Middle East art department, holds up; "king Freidun In the Guise Of A Dragon Tests His Sons" a piece from the Shahnamah of Shah Tahmasp of Iran, or the "Book of Kings", before hanging it at Sotheby's in New York March 16, 2011.

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Edward Gibbs, head of Sotheby's Middle East art department, shows notes handwritten by Stuart Cary Welch on the backboard of "king Freidun In the Guise Of A Dragon Tests His Sons". The illustrated page from a rare 500-year-old manuscript detailing the early history of Iran sold $12 million auctioned for the first time in London.

  (Click to enlarge)

LONDON, (CAIS) -- A 16th century illustrated portfolio from the "Shahnameh" (Šāhnāmé - the Book of Kings) of Shah Tahmasp of Safavid Iran, fetched 7.4 million pounds ($12 million) on Wednesday, a new auction record for a Persian work of art  from the Islamic period as well as Islamic work of art in general.

The leaf from the Iranian national epic depicts king Freydun in the guise of a dragon testing his sons, and comes from the collection of Stuart Cary Welch, the renowned U.S. scholar, curator and collector of Islamic and Indian art.

It was sold in London at Sotheby's in the first sale of a two-part auction of Welch's collection. The second part will take place in London in May.

The auctioneer said the Shahnameh was "universally acknowledged as one of the supreme illustrated manuscripts of any period or culture and among the greatest works of art in the world." It had been expected to fetch 2-3 million pounds.

The sale price, which includes buyer's premium, eclipsed the previous Persian art of the Islamic period and Islamic art auction record set at rival auction house Christie's last year, when a 17th century Kerman "vase" carpet from Iran fetched 6.2 million pounds.

Sotheby's did raise 9.2 million pounds in 2008 for what was believed at the time to be a 12th century key to the Kaaba in Mecca, but the sale was canceled the following year after experts raised questions about its authenticity.

Welch died in 2008. In an obituary in the New York Times, he was described as a man who "brought many of the masterworks of these traditions (Persian, Islam and India) to the attention of the West."





Original news bulletin published by Reuters  rectified and edited by CAIS [*]




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