Christie’s Dubai is showcasing a number of extraordinary and rare pieces of art, many of which have never before been on display in the UAE.
The gallery’s latest exhibition includes an eclectic mix of works from a number of the auction house’s upcoming sales, including the sale of Islamic and Indian works, including oriental rugs and carpets, in London on October 27, paintings from Christie’s Private Sales, the Old Masters Evening Sale on December 8, and British and European Art Part I on December 15.
Old masterworks such as Sir Anthony van Dyck’s Portrait of Henrietta Maria painted in 1636 and the equestrian painting Etalon Anglo-Arabe by Theodore Gericault sit in the same space as a 1565 Iznik Slipware pottery jug from Ottoman Turkey and A White-Eared Bulbul, a stunningly detailed miniature illustration signed by Reza Abbasi from Safavid Isfahan, Iran, in 1620.
One of the exhibition’s highlights is an incredibly rare and striking 17th century Royal Mughal Pashmina carpet from northern India, made in 1650. The mogul pashmina carpet was woven under the reign of Shah Jahan I, the fifth emperor of the Mughal Empire.
During Shah Jahan’s reign, the Mughals reached the peak of their architectural achievements and cultural glory. The Royal Mughal Pashmina carpet showcased at Christie’s DIFC is a prime example of the stylistic finesse Shah Jahan envisioned and illustrates the artistic style of his reign.
“This Royal Mughal Pashmina carpet absolutely has the stamp and stylistic representation of Shah Jahan,” Louise Broadhurst, Christie’s director, International Head of Oriental Rugs and Carpets, tells The National.
“It’s the zenith of mogul weaving and is everything that Shah Jahan was working towards. He was an enlightened patron and took a great deal of time to consider what the visual vocabulary was. Whether it be carpets, ceramics or architecture, he ended up developing what we call the flower and lattice design, and it was most commonly associated with Shah Jahan.”
The Royal Mughal Pashmina carpet is made from highly prized pashmina wool, imported from the mountains of Nepal where goats grazed in sub-zero temperatures, which made the prized wool incredibly fine in nature. Each strand is a sixth of a human hair, making it suitable for master weavers to create more intricate images in their designs, adding shade, perspective and details that give the carpet a more three-dimensional and painterly appearance.
“We’re seeing this huge influence also from the West,” Broadhurst says. “We are seeing for the first time, these herbal botanicals that you can see in France which we’re actually coming across from the West back into India. The Mughal emperor was really fascinated with these and decided to move away from the former Persian style imagery. And for the first time, we’re seeing here these identifiable flowers such as sunflower, lilies, poppies, carnations and a multitude of flowers.”
Shah Jahan was inspired by the nature of Kashmir, particularly by the flowers in the countryside and instructed his painters to depict these in a naturalistic manner, not only in the carpets but also in the architecture of the palace.
Despite being a fragmented piece of the carpet, which would have been four metres long when it was originally created, the Royal Mughal Pashmina carpet displays the aesthetic detail that makes it such an exemplary object created under Shah Jahan’s patronage.
Another rare highlight of the show are pages from one of the earliest examples of Quran production. The pages, made of vellum paper, are covered in the visually striking Kufic script. This particular style of Arabic script gained early prominence for transcribing the Quran for architectural decoration.
The script is free of diacritics and dots often used in Arabic writing, which makes Kufic challenging to read. However, the minimalist, bold script is intriguing thanks to its modern look, with a clear, spaced-out composition on the page.