Islamic miniature could fetch $5 million at auction

Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:44pm EDT
 
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - An illustrated page from a rare 500-year-old manuscript detailing the early history of Persia is expected to sell for as much as $5 million when it auctioned for the first time in London next month.

The exquisitely detailed work is one of 258 miniatures from the Shahnamah of Shah Tahmasp of Persia, or "Book of Kings."

It is the highlight of a one-week exhibit at Sotheby's opening on Friday in New York and the top item in the London sale on April 6 of the collection of Stuart Cary Welch, a former curator of Islamic art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

"It is arguably the greatest illustrated manuscript ever produced, in any culture," said Edward Gibbs, head of Sotheby's Middle East art department.

The manuscript, done between 1525-1535, chronicles the history of Persia, or Iran, from prehistoric times to the 7th century.

Made for Shah Tahmasp, it was commissioned by his father, the founder of the Safavid dynasty. The work depicts King Faridun's transformation into a dragon to test his three sons' loyalty.

Other pages from the manuscript hang on the walls of museums in Tehran, Berlin, Doha and New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The leaf is one of the few remaining in private hands, Gibbs said, and the first to come to market since 2005.   Continued...

 
<p>Edward Gibbs, head of Sotheby's Middle East art department, holds up; "Faridun In the Guise Of A Dragon Tests His Sons" a piece from the Shahnamah of Shah Tahmasp of Persia, or "Book of Kings", before hanging it at Sotheby's in New York March 16, 2011. The illustrated page from a rare 500-year-old manuscript detailing the early history of Persia is expected to sell for as much as $5 million when it auctioned for the first time in London next month. It is the highlight of a one-week exhibit at Sotheby's opening on Friday in New York and the top item in the London sale on April 6 of the collection of Stuart Cary Welch, a former curator of Islamic art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid</p>