Chiswick Auctions Islamic and Indian Art auctions Friday 29 April 2022

Chiswick Auctions is holding two auctions of Islamic and Indian Art on Friday 29 April. The first, at 11am, is a collection of mainly Iranian art works from an individual collector who died recently. The second, at 1pm, includes items from two single owner collections, one of a Lebanese businessman with eclectic taste, the other mainly manuscripts of Islamic art being offered at auction for the first time.

Beatrice Campi, Head of the Islamic and Indian art department at Chiswick Auctions, spoke to The Chiswick Calendar about the auctions and what to look out for.

Islamic Art – Property of a European Collector Part III, at 11am

Of the 111 lots Beatrice picked out a painting of a Persian domestic scene circa 1789, an oil on canvas depicting a famous love tale and a set of four very pretty bowls which represent a power struggle in a long ago dynasty.

Image above: Lot 21, an interior scene with a couple drinking wine, circa 1789

An interior scene with a couple drinking wine, circa 1789

Lot 21 is one of very few Iranian paintings which are both signed and dated, inscribed ‘Raqam-i Kamtarin Muhammad Ibn Khodadad 1204 AH’ (1789 AD). A point of difference from Western art, Beatrice explained, is that in Islamic art the craftsmen did not seek individual recognition, merely to emulate God.

This painting is from a time when Persia was going through massive turmoil. 1722 – 1794 was a time when regional powers were vying for precedence, seeking to take the imperial crown, but none of them were strong enough. The Zand dynasty sought to bolster their prestige by luring artists from the previous Safavid dynasty to their court. This artist, Muhammad Ibn Khodadad, was one of the greatest of the time.

The focus of the picture is on the woman seated. “She is literally wearing the trousers” says Beatrice, as the man and the servant hover behind her trying to please her. She is clearly having wine, not permitted by Islamic law but an indication of what household life was actually like behind closed doors.

She is wearing “a provocative diaphanous shirt showcasing her rounded breast and tattoos on her tummy and belly button, her gaze directed at the audience”, relaxed and confident. Estimate £600 – £800.

Image above: Lot 49, Layla and Majnun, attributed to Muhammad Zaman III

The love story of Layla and Majnun

Lot 49 is a painting which tells the tale of Layla and Majnun, a famous Persian love fable based on an Arabic folk tale which became popular in the 12th century and is still told to children today. The great poet Nizami Ganjavi wrote the Khamsa – a quintet of five works supposed to be read together. The tale of Layla and Majnun is one of these.

The two were born in the Arabian desert, grew up with each other and fell in love but were destined not to marry. When Layla is betrothed to another man Majnun is so distraught his name has gone into the Persian language as synonymous with ‘crazy’ or ‘bewildered’. The willow tree depicted is also synonymous with grief, as it is watered by his tears.

He leaves home and becomes feral, living in the forest where his sole companions are the animals. He becomes a hermit and stops speaking. Layla goes after him to tell him to come back and fight for her but she does not see an opportunity for the situation to change. The story ends tragically.

“It’s a bit like an Aesop’s fable” Beatrice tells me. “The moral of the tale is that you should fight for what you want but you might not always get it. “Persian tales aren’t like European ones. They are not unrealistically romantic like Cinderella where it all works out in the end, they are more realistic.”

The work is attributed to Muhammad Zaman III (active 1758 – 94). Estimate £6,000 – £8,000.

Image above: Lot 75, four porcelain bowls and saucers, commissioned by the Governor of Isfahan

A dynastic struggle in porcelain

Lot 75, four porcelain bowls and saucers, are not any old bits of china; they represent a dynastic struggle. Mas’ud Mirza was the eldest son of Nasser-al-Din Shah and a Persian prince of the Qajar dynasty, but as his mother was a commoner his father’s crown passed to his younger brother.

By way of compensation the Shah made him Governor of Isfahan province, where he ruled for over 35 years. Incensed by being passed over, he made it his business to build up Isfahan as one of the richest regions of Persia, growing a rival empire within an empire.

He commissioned these bowls from the same kiln in China his father used but commissioned bowls that were bigger than his father’s with a golden roundel with his full name on “to show the world he was stronger, better, richer and more lavish than his father” says Beatrice. The definition of one upmanship in porcelain.

Image above: Detail from one of the porcelain bowls

The decoration is typical Guangdong famille rose; the interior of the bowls embellished with bright polychrome colours and lobed medallions filled with Chinese interior scenes with figures alternating with floral blooms, birds, butterflies and fruits. Estimate £6,000 – £8,000.

Indian and Islamic Art, at 1pm

From the two collections by single owners included in the sale, Beatrice picked out an almost life sized statue of a Buddha, a small Kufic bifolio from the Qur’an and an Iznik dish from a kiln in Ottoman Turkey.

Image above: Lot 205, large gilt bronze Buddha

Large gilt bronze standing figure of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni

Lot 205 is a figure of Buddha from Ayutthaya, Thailand from the mid 14th – mid 15th centuries. It belonged to the late Jean-Pierre Yonan, a Lebanese businessman. The impressive size, accurate details, and fineness of this statue are what make it interesting, says Beatrice. It stands at 136 cms high, excluding the base; 184 cms including the base.

It belongs to one of the earliest phases of the gilt bronze U-Thong style. The year 1431 marks a very important victory for the Thai people over the Khmer rulers, which is celebrated as the Siege or Fall of Angkor, a seven-month-long siege on the Khmer capital of Angkor by the Kingdom of Ayutthaya.

With the rise of a new capital in 1350, Ayutthaya (Central Thailand), the Thai kingdom was fully formed and ready to be the dominant power in the region until 1767. This shift in socio-political powers was deeply felt in the arts too, where considerable changes were introduced. Estimate £8,00 – £12,000.

Image above: Lot 454, a small sized Kufic Qur’an bifolio

A small sized Kufic Qur’an bifolio from the Near East or North Africa

Lot 454 is a small sized Kufic Qur’an bifolio on parchment from the 9th – 10th century. The Kūfic style of calligraphy is the earliest extant Islamic style of handwritten alphabet that was used by early Muslims to record the Qurʾān. Angular and dignified, it was also used on tombstones, coins and inscriptions on buildings.

On close examination you can see little red dots on the parchment which, says Beatrice, are diacritic marks, to indicate a particular pronunciation of the words to aid understanding.

“Arabic was written only using consonants. No vowels appeared, which meant the Qur’an was very much open to interpretation. If you saw b_d in English it could be bid, bed, bud or bad, so the diacritical marks are the vetting by the scholars to try and institutionalise the text.”

Each folio is only 8 x 12 cms. Why so small? Maybe the size indicates it was privately owned, or maybe it was so small because parchment was expensive. Paper was not introduced until the 11th century. Estimate £2,000 – £4,000.

Image above: Lot 314, late 16th century Iznik dish from Ottoman Turkey

A late 16th century Iznik dish from Ottoman Turkey

Lot 314 is a “quintessential” Iznik dish, says Beatrice, from the royal atelier for the Ottoman empire. Production at this kiln started in the late 1400s. Ceramics from that period were blue and white, but from 1550 onward the distinctive Armenian red bole is introduced.

“We don’t know how they started to use it on pottery” says Beatrice, “as it was a paste that physicians used for cicatrising wounds. It’s a red clay which heals by aiding scar formation.”

In this beautiful dish it is used to colour the carnations, plum blossom and some of the tulips. Estimate £3,000 – £4,000.

Images above: Large 10th – 12th century bronze figures of a bird from Khorsan, Eastern Iran; Small 12th – 13th century Seljuk bronze figure of a partridge from Khorsan, Eastern Iran also in the auction

Beatrice Campi is the Head of the Islamic and Indian art department at Chiswick Auctions.

If you would like to contact Beatrice, email her at

Chiswick Auctions
1 Colville Road
London, W3 8BL
0208 992 4442

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See also: Tracey Emin among prominent women artists in Chiswick Auctions Urban & Contemporary Art sale

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See also: Profile of Leigh Osborne – Owner of Chiswick Auctions

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