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    Sale 7571

    Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds

    8 April 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 81

    A KHORASSAN SILVER AND COPPER INLAID FIGURE OF A RECUMBENT LION

    NORTH EAST IRAN, 12TH CENTURY

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A KHORASSAN SILVER AND COPPER INLAID FIGURE OF A RECUMBENT LION
    NORTH EAST IRAN, 12TH CENTURY
    The lion with outstretched front paws, the head turned to one side, finely engraved with eyes and whiskers, the nose and forehead copper-inlaid and extending up to the pointed ears pieced for earrings, the back of the head with an inlaid arabesque panel linked to a copper and silver necklace running below its chin, the back finely engraved with small roundels, each haunch with an arched panel very finely engraved with scrolling vine around a human figure, two enthroned, two on horseback, a similar enthroned figure on the breast, the sides with fine engraved benedictory inscriptions, the rump with tail flanked by panels containing animals and birds on a scrolling ground, the underside cut through with an elegant open cartouche, excellent condition
    6¾in. (17.2cm.) long


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    The inscription on each side reads al-'izz wa al-iqbal wa (Glory and prosperity and).

    A small number of similar cats are known and published. The present example however is has a crispness of detail and a finesse of decoration that is not matched in the others. Where the patination has come away the colour of the metal indicates that this lion is made with "white bronze" with a high tin content which is harder, more brittle, and can be engraved with considerably more precision than the metal normally encountered.

    A well-known example of a similar lion is in the Hermitage Museum (Mikhail B. Piotrovsky and John Vrieze (ed.), Earthly Beauty, Heavenly Art, Amsterdam, 2000, no.205, p.230. Inlaid with copper, and also with pictorial panels engraved on the haunches, it could have been cast in the same mould, but has had a very different crasftsman working it thereafter. Two further examples were in the Harari Collection (Arthur Upham Pope, A Survey of Persian Art, London, 1938, pl.1306 B & C). A further example, again with much less crisp decoration, was sold recently at Sotheby's (24 October 2007, lot 94).

    Various uses have been suggested for these. The most probable is that of a carpet or textile weight. One example in a private collection retains a large lump of lead in the interior. A pottery cat of similar size and disposition made in 12th century Iran was in these Rooms 23 October 2007, lot 95. That had been made with a solid body, again indicating the most probable use as a weight. They make the perfect weight, sitting there, and yet also looking up with a certain feline naturalism, perfectly combining their decorative and practical functions.

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