As has become customary in recent years, events and sales are split into two specialist sections: Indian and Islamic art from October 20-29 and East Asian art from October 27 to November 5.
This week we look forward to the first section with previews of objects for sale at dealers and auction houses, including at firms unaffiliated to the event but that hold sales to coincide with the season, and a rundown of the shortlists for the Asian Art in London awards, co-sponsored once again by ATG.
We also provide maps of all the festival’s locations. Details of sales, exhibitions and talks can be found on the Asian Art in London website.
Next week we will preview the East Asian art section as well as forthcoming regional auctions in this category.
Taken back to Indian basics
The Bombay School of Art (or Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art) was established in 1857 and produced ceramics from the mid-1870s. Students were encouraged by their British instructors to copy and adapt motifs from sources such as the Ajanta cave temples rather than European motifs in an attempt to promote the preservation of ‘traditional’ Indian art.
The ceramics were displayed at international exhibitions and sold to the British public by retailers such as Liberty’s of London. This typical 18in (45cm) charger, c.1890, has a central scene depicting Dushyanta and Shakuntala from the Mahabharata with a caption in devanagari script below. It is estimated to bring £300-400 as part of the collection of the late Devon dealer Peter Millett offered by Olympia Auctions in London on November 9.
Folio from Persian ‘Book of Kings’
The Shahnameh – or ‘Book of Kings’ – made for Shah Tahmasp of Persia (r.1524-76) is one of the finest illustrated manuscripts of any period or culture. The monumental tome telling the history of the rulers of Persia from mythical beginnings to the Arab Conquest was illustrated over the course of two decades from 1520-40 by the greatest artists in the royal atelier at enormous expense. It was commissioned by one emperor, Shah Ismail (the first of the Safavids), completed by another, his son and successor Shah Tahmasp, gifted to a third, Sultan Selim II of the Ottoman Empire, and was later owned by one of the great bibliophilic families of the modern era, the Barons de Rothschild.
Today, folios from the Shah Tahmasp Shahnameh are treasured in museum collections internationally. The record for any Islamic work on paper is held by a folio from the same manuscript, sold at Sotheby’s in 2011.
This October, another folio will make a rare appearance at auction as part of Sotheby’s Arts of the Islamic World & India sale on October 26. Offered with an estimate of £4m-6m, the scene depicts the great hero Rustam recovering his horse Rakhsh – two of the main figures over the course of the tale.
Heads up for unusual hilt
Showing at Shapero Rare Books, Indian arms and armour specialist Runjeet Singh brings this 19th century khanjar dagger made in Persia during the Qajar period. Measuring 16in (42cm), the rare and unusual hilt is carved from walrus ivory to convey a variety of human heads.
The pommel shows two bearded and moustachioed men crowned with a row of red rubies while the grip depicts two female faces studded with turquoise roundels. The blade is decorated in gold with Islamic calligraphy with the accompanying wooden scabbard covered with an Iranian brocade and finished with a walrus-ivory tip.
Story of a tragic romance
A finely illustrated manuscript copy of the tragic romance of Leila and Majnun, originally composed by Nizami Ganjavi (c.1209) and presented in the recension of Maktabi Shirazi (d.1520), is offered by Shapero Rare Books for £19,500.
The love story was adapted and retold many times over the years. This version includes 26 illustrations. Shapero is a firsttime exhibitor at Asian Art in London. It follows the arrival of specialist Roxana Kashani and the launch of an Islamic books department in 2021.
Got it on tape
Joost van den Bergh stages an exhibition on the recent work of Nicola Durvasula. Her painting references south Asian culture such as miniatures, paintings and Indian temple sculpture as well as Eastern philosophy. Pictures in the show including this one, a watercolour with brown tape painted in 2020, are offered for prices from around £350- 3000.
*Denotes a participant in Asian Art in London