• Art of the Islamic and Indian  auction at Christies

    Sale 7843

    Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds

    13 April 2010, London, King Street

  • Lot 72



    Price Realised  


    Of rounded body, rimless and footless, the lip slightly rounded, the handle a crescent-shape flange with a rounded edge attached to one side of the bowl, the engraved decoration with two whirling fish on a ground of stylized waves, a band of meandering vine on pounced ground and bordered by a double incised line below the lip on the exterior, the flange with a delicately incised lotus blossom issuing long tendrils with fleshy leaves on pounced ground, the flange possibly reattached, minor dents otherwise intact
    1 3/8in. (3.6cm.) high; 5 1/8in. (13.1cm.) long

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    The shallow rounded cup of precious metal with a handle on one side is a form which is known from the Seljuk period in Persia, such as a niello decorated silver cup in the L. A. Mayer Memorial Museum, Jerusalem. (Eva Baer, Metalwork in Medieval Islamic Art, New York, 1983, no.83, p.105). The Mongol control however of lands from Persia to China in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries meant that Chinese stylistic influence surged into the Islamic world.

    This is one of a small number of similar vessels, most of which are in the State Hermitage, St. Petersburg, having been excavated in areas within the former Soviet Union (Anatoli Ivanov, Masterpieces of Islamic Art in the Hermitage Museum, exhibition catalogue, Kuwait, 1990, no.62, p.94). A number of these are published in The Treasures of the Golden Horde (exhibition catalogue, St Petersburg, 2000, nos.40, 41, 46, and 57-69, pp.219-231). One of them (no.41), dated circa 1300 and excavated in a tumulus near Tashkent shows a handle similarly decorated with a central lotus bordered with floral sprays and a meandering vine below the rim. The motif of fish in the centre of the cup is used in the early Islamic periods but becomes more frequent however after the middle of the 13th century on metal and pottery vessels. Here, the depiction of these two fleshy fish on stylized waves can be paralleled with contemporary miniature painting as in a page of the Jami' al-Tawarikh depicting the Mountains of India, dated 1314-15 (J.M. Rogers, The Arts of Islam, Masterpieces from the Nasser D. Khalili Collection, Abu Dhabi, 2008, cat.181).

    Ivanov suggests that these were bowls for travellers, being carried within a special bag hanging from the belt. This is presumably a finding from archaeological sites. A similar bowl is however depicted in the hand of the enthroned Sultan Sanjar ibn Malik Shah in the Edinburgh University part of the Jami' al-Tawarikh of Rashid al-Din (D. Talbot Rice, B. Gray, The Illustrations to the World History of Rashid al-Din, Edinburgh, 1976, pl.68, p.174), showing that such bowls were used at the courts of the rulers of the time, not solely on their travels.

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    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 17.5% on the buyer's premium.


    Private US collection since 1970s, thence by descent