Probably made in Iraq in the late 13th century, it has been in a European private collection since the 1960s and on loan at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York since 2017, it surfaced at Sotheby’s on October 27 where it doubled hopes to sell at £5.6m. The price with premium was £6.63m.
At 12in (30cm) across this is one of the largest and most imposing examples of a distinct family of facetted candlesticks produced in the Jazira region in the 13th and early 14th centuries.
It is one of very few with large-scale figural decoration, depicting a stately parade of 27 courtiers to the nine-sided base, 11 standing courtiers to the neck and shoulder and nine seated musicians to the socket. The bands of anthropomorphic script reference ‘perpetual glory increasing prosperity and perfect good fortune’.
Sotheby’s believes it was probably made in Mosul c.1275 in the decades after the premier centre for inlaid metalwork in the Near East fell to the Mongol Ilkhanid dynasty in 1262.
The record for Islamic art overall stands at £6.6m hammer, bid at Sotheby’s in 2011 for a page from one of the most famous Persian manuscripts, the 16th century Shahnameh created for the Safavid ruler Shah Tamasp. In 2010 £5.5m was bid for a 17th century Kirman vase carpet at Christie’s, while in 2018 a newly discovered Isnik charger from the reign of Mehmet II ‘the Conqueror’ took £4.55m.
In April 2008, an iron and copper key with an inscription dated AH575 (1179-80AD), thought to be from the ka’ba, sold for £8.2m at Sotherby’s. However, the sale was later revoked after doubts were raised over its authenticity.