Published: October 6, 2015
LONDON — A mother-of-pearl and black lac overlaid wood tray has set a new world record auction price of $1.465 million for a piece of this type, selling to a bidder in the room for well over ten times its estimate in Bonhams’ Islamic and Indian art auction today, October 6.
The Sixteenth Century tray is one of a small number of surviving examples of mother-of-pearl objects from Gujarat. Its design, which depicts winged figures carrying birds or vessels, has never been seen before on an object of its type.
“It has been amazing to work on such an extraordinary piece,” said Oliver White, head of Bonhams’ Islamic and Indian Art department. “Mother-of-pearl overlaid objects of this type are incredibly rare, but the presence of winged figures makes our tray rarer still. There are no other recorded examples which feature angels and the fine quality of work and the exceptional condition of the tray make it a unique survivor outside museum collections.”
The angels suggest Persian, Indian and European influences. Strikingly similar imagery — of a winged figure in Persian dress holding a peacock — can be seen decorating the pavilions of Nur Jahan in the Ram Bagh at Agra. These paintings provide an approximate date for this tray and imply that the conditions of its production may have been somewhat unusual. The decorative scheme would suggest the tray was made to appeal to an Indian patron rather than for export to European or Turkish patrons, the general destination for most mother-of-pearl inlaid items.
The auction, which saw bidders competing across the world, also featured a fine gem-set enameled gold turban ornament (Jigha), from Eighteenth Century northern India sell well over estimate for $104,269.
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