DUBAI: A folio from the Shah Tahmasp Shahnameh, one of the “finest illustrated manuscripts in existence,” is expected to fetch between $4.6 million and $6.9 million at a Sotheby’s auction next month.
The Shahnameh, also known as the Book of Kings, is an epic poem containing 50,000 rhyming couplets, telling the history of Persia’s rulers. It was written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between 977 and 1010.
The folio up for auction was made for Shah Tahmasp of Persia in the 16th century and was illustrated over the course of two decades by some of the finest artists of the time.
Benedict Carter, head of Sotheby’s Islamic and Indian art department, said the Shah Tahmasp Shahnameh was the great version of the manuscript because, “it involved such an enormous sense of production, using the greatest artists in the royal atelier.”
He added: “The record for any Islamic work on paper is held by a folio from the same manuscript, sold at Sotheby’s in 2011, and so the rare appearance of another at auction represents a great opportunity for collectors in this field and beyond.”
The Shah Tahmasp manuscript was commissioned by emperor Shah Ismail, the founder of the Safavid dynasty of Iran. When he died, his son Shah Tahmasp continued the work. When complete, it was given to Sultan Selim II of the Ottoman Empire. It was later owned by the Barons de Rothschild, whose collections included masterpieces such as the “Belles Heures of the Duc de Berry,” and the “Hours of Catherine of Cleves.”
Also included in the auction next month will be a Fatimid carved rock crystal bottle, from late 10th- to early 11th-century Egypt; a Mughal gem-set glass-hilted dagger and scabbard from 18th-century India; and a Qur’an leaf in Kufic script, from near east or northern Africa, circa 750.