Magnificent carved marble capital sells for nearly £40,000

13/05/2019     News Stories & Press Release, Islamic & Indian Art

A Greek bronze Corinthian partial helmetJami, Subhat al-AbrarUmayyad carved marble capital, Madinat Al-Zahra

LONDON: An impressive Umayyad carved marble capital from Madinat Al-Zahra - the vast fortified Moorish medieval palace-city in Andalusia, Spain – has sold at Roseberys London for £37,000, over double its top guide.
The large capital dates to the second half of the 10th century and has survived in remarkable condition, retaining much of the beautiful crisp carvings of scrolling flowering vines, protruding leaves and pronounced volutes (Lot 177).
The building of Madinat Al-Zahra started in 936AD for Abd-ar-Rahman III, the Arab Emir and Caliph of Córdoba of the Umayyad dynasty in Muslim Spain. It took 25 years to complete and became synonymous with opulence and sophistication as well as an impressive showcase for the outstanding craftsmanship of the Spanish Umayyad imperial workshops.

The site included ceremonial reception halls, mosques, administrative and government offices, gardens, a mint, workshops, barracks, residences and baths. Distinct motifs and designs featured on the columns, which were imported from North Africa and regions in the Byzantine empire.
Ruined around 100 years later in a Berber revolt and plundered of its riches, Medina Al-Zahra was effectively wiped off the map for a millennium. In 2018, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The capital featured in Islamic Art & Manuscripts, an auction held on May 3 at Roseberys London that brought together nearly 400 lots of historic artefacts heralding from the fascinating and diverse civilisations of the Middle East and wider Islamic world, including Arabic manuscripts, Persian paintings and Ottoman Turkish works of art.

Alice Bailey, Head of the Islamic and Indian Arts department, comments: We had a very strong sale particularly in the areas of medieval and early glass, manuscripts and metalwork. The busy saleroom welcomed new buyers and witnessed competitive bidding with numerous telephone lines and online buyers from across the globe. The buying demonstrated a demand for quality and rarity, encouraged by the opportunity to acquire desirable works of Islamic art. 

Another rarity was a Mamluk inscribed gilded and enamelled vessel in the form of a glass wine boat (Lot 201). Enamelled and gilded glass - the best known and most treasured type of Islamic glass - was a speciality of the medieval realm of Mamluk (present-day Egypt and Syria). Today, most inscribed Mamluk pieces are in museum collections.
The piece, at least 600 years old, is decorated to the centre with an enamelled floral pattern in red, white, green, yellow and blue. Previously in a private collection since 1980, it sold for £13,500.


Demonstrating the continued strong prices for Qur’ans was a rare signed Arabic manuscript that sold for £5500 against a £2000-3000 estimate (Lot 149). Not only was this an important example of Ottoman book production in North Africa during the 18th century, it was also large, dated and signed by a Muhammad bin Husayn bin Muhammad Al-Mansuri of Algiers in Algeria.

A 16th century Persian manuscript copied by Imad al-Hasani – one of the most celebrated nasta'liq calligraphers in Persia – was pursued to £4000, well in excess of its £800-1200 guide (Lot 99).
Imad al-Hasani was born in Qazvin, lived in Tabriz, and travelled in the Ottoman lands as far as the Hejaz in present-day Saudi Arabia. He eventually returned to Qazvin, copying manuscripts and calligraphic pages, and soon moved to Isfahan where he found his way to the court of Shah 'Abbas I. Shah 'Abbas's high esteem for Imad al-Hasani caused jealousy among other calligraphers. Accusations that he had Sunni tendencies finally cost him his life and he was murdered in 1554-55. Numerous manuscripts and calligraphic pages by him are recorded.


A Mamluk inscribed enamelled and gilded glass wine boat, Egypt or SyriaA Khorassan ribbed bronze ewer, North East IranA lustre-painted glass vessel, Iran

Metal ware and Glass

Over a dozen bronze pieces originating from Khorassan in north eastern Iran during the late middle ages included this finely decorated ewer from the early 12th century (Lot 210). The piece, with its fine deep ribbed decoration, scrolling vines and a cylindrical neck, had come from a private collection in Denmark formed in the 1980s and demonstrated the strong market for early metalwork with private provenance. It sold over top estimate at £1900.

A Fatimid lustre painted glass bowl comparable to another in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York found a buyer at £6500 (Lot 196). Made in Egypt during the 10th or 11th centuries, the vessel’s bluish glass was decorated in a brownish gold lustre with a series of cross-hatched lozenge motifs interspersed by large foliate motifs and a band of inscription in kufic - the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts.

The bowl demonstrated the overall strong prices achieved for glass, both antique and Islamic in the sale. Another crowd pleaser was a lustre-painted thick greenish glass vessel from Iran decorated to exterior with birds and large abstract kufic letters (Lot 190). It found a buyer at £3200.



As well as arts from the Islamic world, the sale also included a small selection of antiquities. The section’s star was a striking Corinthian partial helmet that had survived in impressive condition. Hammered from a single heavy sheet of bronze with almond-shaped eyeholes, it originated from Ancient Greece during the Archaic period (c.2nd half of the 7th century BC) and had an old collection label to the interior and a wooden plinth. It sold for £3600, well above the £1200-1500 estimate (Lot 17).  


View all the results here. 

For further information please contact Peigi Mackillop +44 (0) 20 8761 2522





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