Sotheby's Islamic Shahnameh leaf sees 1631.5% increase

A magnificent illuminated leaf from the Shahnameh of Shah Isma'il II made £1.38m ($2.2m) at Sotheby's Arts of the Islamic World auction in London yesterday (April 25, 2012).


Sotheby's Islamic Arts Shahnameh
Leaf from the Shahnameh of Shah Isma'il II


The Shahnameh, which translates as "Book of Kings", is a national epic crafted by the revered Persian poet Ferdowski. The epic contains more than 60,000 verses, spanning the history of Greater Persia.

Both mythological and historical, the work was completed by Ferdowski in 1010. This leaf, an extract from the Shahnameh commissioned by Shah Isma'il II at the start of his reign in 1576, is attributed to the artist Burji.

Featuring beautiful and intricate illustrations, the leaf details the party of Kay Khosraw and his nobles following his ascension to the throne. The stunning gouache and gold illustrations are accentuated by 10 lines of text written in Nasta'liq script.

The item was given a pre-sale estimate of £60,000-80,000, but surpassed the higher figure by 1631.5%.

A double-page frontispiece from a later Shahnameh of the Jahangir period, circa 1610, sold for £115,230 against a £30,000 high estimate.

A drawing from Mohamad Yusuf, one of the most prominent Persian artists in his day, brought more impressive hammer prices to the sale. His striking depiction of a Persian lady holding a carafe, demonstrating the artist's outstanding draughtsmanship, made £433,250, 622% increase on its high estimate of £60,000.

The auction formed part of Sotheby's Turkish and Islamic week, which has already seen success with its Eye for Opulence Ottoman sale. Sotheby's has also hosted its Orientalist Art auction this week, which brought a total of £5.5m in London.



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