Back in October 2015, it had appeared for sale at the Stonepark auction house Rendells – brought into a valuation day after the vendor had second thoughts about sending it to a jumble sale. It had belonged to her step-grandfather who had worked as a consultant mining engineer in Turkey.
Estimated then at £3000-5000, it sold for £155,000 – a spectacular find that featured on the front page of ATG.
The 9½in (24cm) square tile featuring exotic birds flanking a pedestal fountain dated to c.1575 made its auction return at Sotheby’s Arts of the Islamic World & India sale on March 30. The estimate this time was £100,000-150,000 but bidding reached a mighty £520,000 – the top price of the sale (plus 26% buyer’s premium).
This is one of only a small number known in this pattern, made using the emerald green first used to decorate tiles of the mausoleum of Suleiman the Magnificent in 1566. Sotheby’s cataloguer referenced seven other intact examples, all now housed in museum collections.
The next day, Christie’s Islamic auction included the £1.9m (£2.3m including premium) sale of a silk and metal-thread Polonaise carpet from the golden age of Safavid weaving. Underbid by an Italian bidder online, it sold on the phone.
It was probably made in Isfahan, central Persia, c.1600, during the artistic renaissance of Shah ‘Abbas I when a significant proportion of similar carpets were made as ambassadorial gifts to European nobility.
The remarkably well-preserved carpet formerly belonged to Baron Adolphe Carl von Rothschild and retained the original label noting its owner and his residence at 45 rue de Monceau, Paris, during the 19th century. It was sold in Paris in 1968 when it passed to another prominent German noble family. It was estimated at £1m-1.5m.
The top lot of the Christie’s sale was folio number 451 from the Shah Tahmasp Shahnama commissioned by Shah Isma’il, c.1522. The scene titled Rustam Kicking Away the Boulder Pushed by Bahman, attributed to Aqa Mirak, assisted by Qasim bin ‘ali, Safavid Tabriz, was last sold in 1996 as part of the British Rail Pension Fund. It was hammered down at £4m against an estimate of £2.5m-4m.