£234,000 Mughal hookah brings 20-times its estimate

A rare intact Mughal gilt-decorated glass hookah base from the first half of the 18th Century India created great excitement at Bonhams Islamic and Indian Sale at Bonhams, yesterday (April 15).

It sold for £234,000 against a pre-sale estimate of £8,000-12,000. Overall, Bonhams' auction sale made a final total of £1.6m.

The 19.5cm tall gilded green glass bowl has a globular body and short cylindrical neck with a rib. It is decorated with a frieze of poppy plants alternating with cypress trees reserved in gilt.

The known history of this hookah bowl starts with John Clough (1904-1947), a High Court Judge in Calcutta (there is a memorial to him in St Paul's Cathedral, Calcutta) and avid collector of Indian furniture and works of art.

It passed down through the family to the present owner who was delighted with the unexpectedly high price at Bonhams.

Bidri hookah bases of the first half of the 17th Century became the models for those made in jade, enamel, metal and glass in Mughal India. 

The rare intact Mughal gilt-decorated glass hookah base, from the first
half of the 18th Century, sold for £234,000

The influence was seen not only in shape, but also in decoration, which almost invariable incorporated floral of vegetal motifs. A common design was large flowering plants at intervals around the surface.

One of the earliest depictions of a glass hookah base appears in a painting of a shop in a bazaar that is thought to have been produced at Bikaner circa 1700.

Another item that outperformed its pre-sale estimate was an illuminated Qur'an copied by Shaykh Hamdullah (b. circa 1436-37, d. 1520), from Ottoman Turkey - probably Constantinople - in the late 15th Century.

It made £110,000 against an estimate of £40,000-60,000.

The Arabic manuscript, of 372 paper pages with 13 lines per page, was written in elegant naskhi script in black ink, with vowel points in black and red and gold roundels between verses.


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