DUBAI: A Sotheby’s auction in London on Wednesday saw a rare folio set a new record for the most expensive Islamic object or work on paper ever sold by the auction house.
The Shah Tahmasp Shahnameh was sold for $9,091,179, surpassing the previous record set by another leaf from the same manuscript at Sotheby’s in 2011.
“The Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasp is universally acknowledged as one of the supreme illustrated manuscripts of any period or culture and ranking among the greatest works of art in the world. It is testament to the sheer artistic skill, patronage and beauty that two folios from the same legendary manuscript now hold the top two highest prices for any Islamic work on paper, with a new auction record set."
Benedict Carter, head of Sotheby’s Islamic & Indian Art department, said in a released statement.
The scene depicts the hero Rustam recovering his horse Rakhsh – named the Persian word for lightning – two of the main figures over the course of the tale.
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, whose collections included such masterpieces as the Belles Heures of the Duc de Berry and the Hours of Catherine of Cleves. Today, folios from the Shahnameh are treasured in museum collections internationally, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, the Aga Khan Museum Collection, the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran.