Bejeweled Indian canopy to be auctioned in New York
By Bernd Debusmann Jr.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A stunning, rarely seen bejeweled, nearly 150-year-old canopy from India is expected to sell for as much as $5 million when it is auctioned next month, according to Sotheby's.
The Pearl Canopy of Baroda will go under the hammer on March 24 as part of a larger auction of Indian and Southeast Asian Works of Art in New York.
It includes over 500,000 pearls, as well as numerous diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds sewn on silk. Floral "Persian-style" vines made with colored beads circle the canopy.
"The Maharaja was a great patron of the arts," said Mary Jo Otsea, the worldwide director of Sotheby's carpet department. "This piece is a continuation of the golden age of Indian art from the Mughal period, with Persian influences."
The canopy dates from around 1865, when it was commissioned by the Maharaja of Baroda, in the present-day Indian state of Gujarat. It is believed that the piece was intended to be donated as a gift to decorate the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed in Medina, in what is now Saudi Arabia.
The man who commissioned the canopy, Maharaja Khande Rao Gaekwar, was known to be particularly fond of jewels. In 1867, he bought the "Star of the South", one of the largest diamonds in the world.
The canopy is part of a set which included four large rectangular jewel-encrusted carpets, of which only one remains. One of the rectangular carpets was sold at an auction in Doha, Qatar in March 2009 for $5.4 million.
Art historians are still unsure exactly how the carpet and the canopy were arranged together, Otsea said. Continued...