A gem-set jade Bowl. India, late 19th Century, on a short foot, the jade in a green opaque tone, rubies, emeralds and diamonds set in gold depicting a repeat design showing a bird on leafy branches; 8.8 cm. diam., 4.5 cm. high. Sold for £18,000. photo Bonhams
LONDON.- A rare intact Mughal gilt-decorated glass hookah base from the first half of the 18th Century India created great excitement at Bonhams Islamic and Indian Sale at Bonhams yesterday when it sold for £234,000 against a pre-sale estimated £8,000 to £12,000. The sale made a final total of £1.6m.
The 19.5cm tall gilded green glass bowl has a globular body and short cylindrical neck with a rib. It is decorated with a frieze of poppy plants alternating with cypress trees reserved in gilt.
The known history of this hookah bowl starts with John Clough (1904-1947), a High Court Judge in Calcutta (there is a memorial to him in St Paul's Cathedral, Calcutta), an avid collector of Indian furniture and works of art. It passed down through the family to the present owner who was delighted with the unexpectedly high price at Bonhams.
Bidri hookah bases of the first half of the 17th Century became the models for those made in jade, enamel, metal and glass in Mughal India. The influence was seen not only in shape, but also in decoration, which almost invariable incorporated floral of vegetal motifs. A common design was large flowering plants at intervals around the surface.
One of the earliest depictions of a glass hookah base appears in a painting of a shop in a bazaar that is thought to have been produced at Bikaner circa 1700.
A rare intact Mughal gilt-decorated glass Huqqa Base. India, first half of 18th Century. photo Bonhams
with globular body and short cylindrical neck with a rib, free-blown, tooled and gilded, the green glass body, with a frieze of poppy plants alternating with cypress trees reserved in gilt, the details painted onto the glass, the base and shoulder with a band of acanthus leaves, the moulding with lappets and the neck with poppy stems - 19.5 cm. high. Sold for £234,000
John Clough (1904-1947), High Court Judge in Calcutta (there is a memorial to him in St Paul's Cathedral, Calcutta), a collector of Indian furniture and works of art; Julian Clough, his twin brother, Head of the Calcutta Office for the large Scottish-based tea company, James Finlay, who later became Deputy Chairman of Finlays; and by descent to the present owner.
Bidri hookah bases of the first half of the 17th Century became the models for those made in jade, enamel, metal and glass in Mughal India. The influence was seen not only in shape, but also in decoration, which almost invariable incorporated floral of vegetal motifs. A common design depicted was large flowering plants at intervals around the surface.
Although glass hookah bases copied the two basic shapes of bidri – globular and bell-shaped – no hookah base has been attributed to the Deccan, where the form and decoration originated. Possible sites of manufacture have been suggested as Lucknow and a number of known centres of production in Gujarat, Bihar, Rajesthan, and Sind (Hyderabad).
One of the earliest depictions of a glass hookah base appears in a painting of a shop in a bazaar that is thought to have been produced at Bikaner circa 1700 (Simon Digby, "A Corpus of 'Mughal' Glass" in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 36, no.1, London, 1973, pp. 85 -86 and pl. 3).
The present lot relates close to a piece in the Al-Sabah Collection Kuwait, also depicting varieties of poppy plants reserved on a gold ground in addition to the same shoulder and neck designs (Stefano Carboni, Glass from Islamic Lands, London, 2001, pp. 380-81, Cat. 104a).
Another item that outperformed its pre-sale estimate was an illuminated Qur'an copied by Shaykh Hamdullah (b. circa 1436-37, d. 1520), from Ottoman Turkey, probably Constantinople, late 15th Century. It made £110,000 against an estimate of £40,000 to £60,000. This Arabic manuscript of 372 paper pages with 13 lines to the page was written in elegant naskhi script in black ink, with vowel points in black and red, and gold roundels between verses.
An illuminated Qur'an copied by Shaykh Hamdullah (b. circa 1436-37, d. 1520), known as Ibn al-Shaykh al-Amasi
Ottoman Turkey, probably Constantinople, late 15th Century. photo Bonhams
Arabic manuscript on paper, 372 leaves, 13 lines to the page written in elegant naskhi script in black ink, diacritics and vowel points in black and red, gold roundels between verses, sura headings in gold on red cross-hatched panels with floral motifs in blue, one double-page frontispiece in colours and gold, oval shamsa in colours and gold containing a pious inscription in riqa' script in white, marginal verse, hizb, and juz markers in naskhi script in blue ink, occasional stylised marginal floral devices in colours and gold, colophon signed by Shaykh Hamdullah, ownership inscription in Turkish below, some smudging, 19th Century tan morocco with floral tooled design in gold, worn, in modern slipcase - 172 x 120 mm. Sold for £110,400
Provenance: Formerly in the possession of Pertevniyal, wife of Sultan Mahmud II (reg. 1808-39) and mother of Sultan Abdulaziz (reg. 1861-76).
Christie's, Islamic Art and Manuscripts, 27th April 2004, lot 51.
Pertevniyal, who died in 1883, was best known for her charitable endowments, including fountains and schools, though the most prominent are the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque (1868-71) and the Pertevniyal Lyceum in Aksaray. The ownership inscription reads:
Mahmud Han gancasi Abdulaziz Han hazretlerinin Validesi Pertevniyal her kim kiraat ederse hayir dua matlub olunur
'The bud of Mahmud Han the mother of his grace Abdulaziz Han whoever reads [the Qur'an] blessing [for her] is demanded.'
Shaykh Hamdullah, who was born in Amasya in northern central Anatolia, was in effect the creator of Ottoman calligraphy and perhaps its greatest exponent. He learned and developed the six scripts from Hayreddin Mar'ashi, a follower of the 13th Century calligrapher Yaqut al-Musta'simi. Hamdullah taught Prince Bayezid, son of Mehmet the Conqueror, while the former was governor of Amasya. He had already been employed at court and is known to have copied at least two medical manuscripts for Sultan Mehmed II. On the prince's accession to the throne as Sultan Bayezid II (reg. 1481-1512), Hamdullah went with the new Sultan and became master scribe in Constantinople. It is reported that the Sultan - such was his respect for him - used to hold Hamdullah's inkwell for him as he wrote. Secure in his position at the palace, and receiving a substantial salary, he perfected his calligraphy, making naskhi script the most elegant and legible for use in manuscripts of the Qur'an.
Copying the Qur'an occupied most of Hamdullah's career. He is said to have produced 47 copies, as well as other religious and calligraphic works. After Bayezid's death, under Sultan Selim I, Hamdullah retired to a Naqshbandi establishment near Constantinople (he may have migrated to this order of sufis from the Suhrawardi order, in which his father had been a shaykh). It has been suggested that his retirement was due to his close association with the Halveti Order. It was well known that the new Sultan distrusted the Halveti Brotherhood, and believed that their patron, Koca Mustafa Pasha, was involved in the death of his grandfather and uncle Cem. When Suleyman the Magnificent acceded to the throne he asked Hamdullah to copy a Qur'an for him, but the scribe declined on the grounds of ill health, and did in fact die shortly afterwards. (See J. Raby, Turkish Bookbinding in the 15th Century, London 1993, pp. 96-100 and 166-67, no. 23). His work continued to have great influence on Ottoman calligraphy until the breakup of the Empire: he was known as Qiblat al-Khuttat, the Calligraphers' Point of Orientation.
Although there are many calligraphic album pages signed by or attributed to Hamdullah, there are very few signed copies of the Qur'an in private collections. Several Qur'ans copied by him are in Turkish public collections: there is one written for Sultan Bayezid II in 1496, now in the Topkapi Palace (EH 72; see D. J. Roxburgh (ed.), Turks: a Journey of a Thousand Years 600-1600, London 2005, pp. 296-97, no. 253, p. 441). Three other copies are in the Topkapi Library, dated 1492, 1499 and 1503 respectively (see The Anatolian Civilisations III, Istanbul 1983, E. 14 & 16). A copy from the collection of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan was exhibited in Geneva: see T. Falk, ed., Treasures of Islam, Geneva 1985, no. 105; and ibid., Islamic Calligraphy, Geneva 1988, no. 37.
For a Qur'an in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection with very similar sura headings and verse markers, see D. James, After Timur, Oxford 1992, pp. 70-75, no. 18. Such features seem to demonstrate the pervasive influence of Yaqut al-Musta'simi, since a Qur'an in the library of the shrine of Imam Reza at Mashhad (dated AH 686/1287) has similar headings and verse-counts (see M. Lings, The Qur'anic Art of Calligraphy and Illumination, London 1976, pl. 28). For this reason it has been suggested that the present manuscript dates from a relatively early point in Hamdullah's life, perhaps 1475-1480.
The present manuscript appears to be the first Qur'an signed by Hamdullah on the open market since 1990: see Sotheby's, Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures, 26th April 1990, lot 156, for a Qur'an of circa 1515.
For further reading:
M. U. Derman, Letters in Gold: Ottoman calligraphy from the Sakip Sabanci Collection, Istanbul, New York 1998, pp. 19, 46-48.
M. Celal, Seyh Hamdullah, Istanbul 1948.
F. E. Karatay, Topkapi Sarayi Muzesi Kutuphanesi Arapca Yazmalar Katalogu, I. Kur'an, Kur'an ilimleri, Tefsirler, Istanbul 1962.
N. F. Safwat, The Art of the Pen, Oxford 1996.
Available for inspection are copies of the results of a radiocarbon test conducted by the Brussels Art Laboratory, Nuclear Section; a letter discussing the attribution to Shaykh Hamdullah by Professor F. Deroche, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris; and a letter from Professor J. J. Witkam, University of Leiden, expressing his opinion on the manuscript.
Finally an exquisite Safavid woven silk and gilt-metal-thread panel from 17th Century Persia, expected to sell for £15,000 to £20,000 went on to make £49,400. A small scrap of silk textile, no bigger than a hand towel, decorated with a series of repeated silver parrots perched on leafy branches amidst orange peonies and blue carnations on gold coloured ground it was part of a collection of Safavid textiles which sold for £152,400.
An exquisite Safavid woven silk and gilt-metal-thread Panel. Persia, 17th Century. photo Bonhams.
of irregular quadrilateral form, depicting a series of repeated silver parrots perched on leafy branches amidst orange peonies and blue carnations on gold coloured ground, old exhibition label on reverse, 'International Exhibition of Persian Art, London, 1931, MFF1, No. 101' - 39 x 30 cm. Sold for £49,200
Provenance: US Collection.
Exhibited: International Exhibition of Persian Art, London, 1931.
This fragment is closely related to an example in the David Collection (see K. von. Folsach, Art from the World of Islam, Copenhagen 2001, pl. 667). In both cases, the irregular shape can be explained by their former use in garments.
European travellers who were resourceful enough to reach Isfahan created by Shah Abbas I in 1598 were astonished by the rich dress of the inhabitants. Conspicuous consumption was a social obligation demanded by the Shah. This was a shrewd move to develop expensive tastes in his subjects thus reviving Persia’s brilliant history in textile design, famous through the Eastern and Roman worlds. There was a constant round of court festivities with extravagant parties held in palace gardens affording opportunities to display magnificent clothes.
Head of Islamic and Indian Art at Bonhams, Kristina Sanne, comments: “It is a privilege to hold these sumptuous fabrics in one’s hands. They provided an endless palette for their wearers to create visions of loveliness that rival and exceed anything we see today in the fashion capitals of the world.”