Ottoman and Safavid carpets in London
Thursday 26 April 2018 was a very good day in the London salerooms for classical-period carpets, some well-known, others fresh to the international market.
First up in the morning, included in the ‘Important Design’ sale at Bonhams in New Bond Street, was a large-medallion Ushak carpet of the second half of the 16th century (lot 95). Formerly in the collection of ambassador Ghazi Aita (see HALI 120, p.127), it was last sold at Christie’s in London in October 2001 for £135,750 ($196,840). Bonhams’ choice of a non-specialised sale did nothing to hinder bidding for a single-medallion carpet notable above all for its good colours and good condition. It sold within estimate to an anonymous buyer for £181,250 ($253,210), one of the highest prices ever paid at auction for an Ushak carpet of this design type.
In the afternoon, the final section of Christie’s ‘Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds’ at King Street featured a trio of previously unknown Ushak Lotto arabesque carpets, consigned by an Italian noble family descended from a number of cardinals and Pope Alexander VII (d.1667), from whom the family may have inherited the rugs. All three performed considerably better than might have been expected.
The first, lot 258, a mid-size Lotto carpet in good overall colour and condition, was estimated at £40-60,000, but was vigorously competed up to £187,500 ($261,110), selling on the phone to an anonymous buyer. Next up, lot 259, was an early (17th century) and well-composed example of the ‘Transylvanian’ type of Lotto, quite square in format, colourful, with corroded browns repiled. Estimated at £30-40,000, it was bought by the UK trade for a very strong £60,000 ($83,555). The third Lotto, lot 260, was another mid-size rug, rather weaker in colour than its companions, which nevertheless exceeded its £40-60,000 estimate, selling to a telephone bid from a US private collector for £68,750 ($95,740). The high sums fetched by these three Ottoman-period carpets, while not records, reflect the unexpectedly large amount of £87,500 ($122,710) paid at Sotheby’s earlier in the week for a very worn ‘Star Ushak’ carpet (23 April 2018, lot 38).
Top carpet at Christie’s was in fact lot 295, an imposing, outsized, Safavid red-ground Esfahan gallery carpet with Italian provenance, consigned by an American private collection. This grand carpet, of the ‘Braganza’ type associated with importation to Portugal in the second half of the 17th century, was estimated at £80-120,000 and again, after prolonged bidding, sold to the same anaonymous telephone buyer as the top Lotto, for £248,750 ($346,405).
Finally, we come to an old friend, lot 288, the 17th-century Barbieri Khorasan compartment and tree carpet, formerly in the Orient Stars Collection. It was last sold at Christie’s, London in April 2006 for £102,000 ($178,060; see HALI 146, p.125), and this time was significantly underestimated at £60-80,000, going on to sell to a private Middle Eastern buyer for a well-deserved £150,000 ($208,890).