A folio from the Shah Tahmasp Shahnameh is being offered on sale at Sotheby’s in October, and is expected to sell for four to six million pounds, as a “perfect encapsulation of artistic skill, patronage and beauty.”
A folio from the Shah Tahmasp Shahnameh will go on auction at Sotheby’s London, with an estimated price tag of four to six million GBP ($4.60 to $6.90 million).
The folio is one of the many priceless items to be sold at Sotheby’s auction as part of “Arts of the Islamic World & India” on October 26, 2022.
The Shahnameh (“The Book of Kings”), an epic poem of 50,000 couplets, written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between 977 and 1010, tells of Iran’s ancient history and is considered the national epic of Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
The folio that will be offered up for sale was created for Shah Tahmasp of Persia in the 16th century, illustrated by the master artists of the time over the course of two decades. According to Sotheby’s, it “depicts the great hero Rustam recovering his horse Rakhsh – named the Persian word for lightning – two of the main figures over the course of the tale. “
Calling The Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasp “a perfect encapsulation of artistic skill, patronage and beauty”, Benedict Carter, head of Sotheby’s Islamic and Indian Art Department says it ranks “among the greatest works of art in the world”.
The last time a folio from the same manuscript sold at Sotheby’s in 2011, it broke the record for Islamic works on paper, fetching 7.4 million GBP ($12 million at the time). It is now part of the collection of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada.
Carter believes the rare appearance of a folio from the Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasp in another auction is a “great opportunity for collectors in this field and beyond.”
Talking to the British newspaper the Guardian, Carter says the Shah Tahmasp Shahnameh was the great version of the manuscript because ““it involved such an enormous sense of production, using the greatest artists in the royal atelier”.
According to Carter, the folio, “a real world masterpiece”, would only have found an equal in Europe “if there were to be such a manuscript that was illustrated by all the great Renaissance artists of the age for the ruler”.
The folio on offer was painted by Mirza Ali, writes the Guardian, “one of the finest Persian artists of his generation and the son of Sultan Muhammad, one of the greatest of Persian painters, who also worked on the manuscript.”
Carter told the Guardian that the folio boasted a “huge amount of detail” with the image bleeding into the margins of the page: “You can get lost in the painting”.
The Shah Tahmasp manuscript also has ties to the Ottoman Empire: The founder of the Safavid dynasty of Iran, Shah Ismail (r. 1501-1524), commissioned it –– and upon his death, his son Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524-1576) continued overseeing the work. Upon completion, the Shahnameh was gifted to Sultan Selim II of the Ottoman Empire (r. 1566-1574) as a diplomatic gift.
Arab News reports that the Shah Tahmasp Shahnameh was later owned by the Barons de Rotschild, “whose collections included masterpieces such as the ‘Belles Heures of the Duc de Berry,’ and the ‘Hours of Catherine of Cleves’.”
Sotheby’s notes that today, folios from the Shah Tahmasp Shahnameh “are treasured in museum collections internationally, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC; The Aga Khan Museum, Toronto; The David Collection, Copenhagen; The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, London; The Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran.”