'Supreme manuscript of any period or culture' brings $12m Islam art record

Earlier this week, we wrote about the new wealthy elite of buyers from far-flung places including Russia, China and the Middle East. These wealthy "Medici" collectors - many of them nouveau-rich - are pushing up World Record prices at auctions around the world.

And they've struck again, this time at Sotheby's in London, earlier this week (Wednesday, June 15).

The new World Record was anointed to the "Shahnameh", or "Book of Kings", of Shah Tahmasp of Persia. It sold for £7.4m ($12m) including Buyer's Premium from the collection of Stuart Cary Welch.

The Shahnameh is an enormous poetic opus. It was written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi around 1000 AD, and is nothing less than the very centre of Greater Persia's cultural sphere.

Shah Tahmasp of Persia is just one part of the mammoth poem - whose total length is around 60,000 verses. In it, Faridun, an Iranian mythical king, disguises himself as a dragon to test his sons.

The "Shahnameh", or "Book of Kings", of Shah Tahmasp of Persia

The sale is even more impressive considering that the work was estimate to sell for a relatively small £2-3m. It also overtook Christie's prior World Record price for a Persian 17th century Kirman "vase" carpet, sold for £6.2m last year.

Welch, a renowned US scholar, curator and collector of Islamic and Indian art, died in 2008. Sotheby's sale is a great testament to his devotion as a collector.

Meanwhile, thanks to the growing "Medici" buying phenomenon, London's top three auction houses are confidently predicting a number of new World Record prices in their upcoming Modern and Impressionist sales.

Watch this space for more news on these events.


Join our readers in over 200 countries around the world - sign up for your free weekly Collectibles Newsletter today 

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock