Three world records set for Indian works of art at Christie’s jewelry auction

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Auctioneer Max Fawcett hammers down the top lot of the sale, A Belle Époque Devant-de-corsage, by Cartier, Paris, 1912, which sold for $10,603,500, at Christie’s auction, in New York, on June 19, 2019. Photo: Christie’s.

NEW YORK – A marathon 12-hour auction with five auctioneers for ‘Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence’, comprising of over 400 lots from over 500 years, at Christie’s here, on June 19, 2019, achieved a whopping $109, 271,875, establishing the highest total for any auction of Indian art and Mughal objects, and the second highest auction total for a private jewelry collection.

Sale registrants came from 45 countries across five continents and there was extensive participation across all sale channels with notable institutional bidding. The sale was presented in partnership between Christie’s market-leading Jewelry department and World Art department along with the independent art advisory firm The Fine Art Group, according to press materials.

Over the course of the sale, three world auction records were set for Indian works of art and 29 lots achieved over $1 million. The top lot of the sale was A Belle Époque Devant-de-corsage, by Cartier, Paris, 1912, which sold for $10,603,500 to a private collector in the room.

Additional top lots included The Mirror of Paradise, 52.58 carats, D Color, IF, which achieved $6,517,500; The Shah Jahan Dagger which sold for $3,375,000, establishing the record price for an Indian jade object and record for a piece with Shah Jahan provenance; An Antique Imperial Spinel, Pearl and Emerald Necklace, which realized $3,015,000; and the Golconda Diamond Rivière Necklace, from the collection of the Nizams of Hyderabad, which sold for $2,415,000.

Other notable results included important signed pieces by Cartier, including A Spinel, Natural Pearl, Diamond and Emerald Bead ‘Imperial Moghul Necklace’ and Earrings, that sold for $1,935,000. Contemporary pieces by JAR and Bhagat were also 100% sold, greatly exceeding estimates. Impressive prices were achieved for bejeweled Mughal objects including An Enameled and Gem Set Model of a Parrot, which realized $1,035,000; and an Enameled and Gem Set Huqqa, that achieved $759,000, establishing the world auction record for an Indian huqqa.

Drawing key inspirations from the Maharaja of Indore and his palace Manik Bagh (‘Palace of Rubies’), the bespoke New York exhibition for the auction evoked the artistic dialogue of the East and the West with the incorporation of Jalis, latticed screens, dreamlike floral installations including an orchid canopy, juxtaposed with art deco influences, featuring luxurious marquetry, brass light fixtures, and lacquer-paneled cases, paying homage to architectural notes found from Indore to Rockefeller Center.

Guillaume Cerutti, Chief Executive Officer of Christie’s, said in a statement: “The strong results today, after twelve hours of non-stop bidding, in front of a packed room and with phone and online bidders from all over the world, reflect the exceptional quality of this special collection and position it among the most storied private collections ever featured at auction.”

Rahul Kadakia, International Head of Jewelry at Christie’s, commented, “Beginning with the sale announcement in April, there has been an overwhelming response to this exceptional collection with momentum building from the international tour to the New York exhibition culminating with the excitement witnessed in the saleroom.”

The objects at the auction were offered from The Al Thani Collection. From next year, works of art from this encyclopedic collection, which includes over 6,000 objects, will be shown at a new museum space in Paris. In addition to new acquisitions, sale proceeds will support ongoing initiatives of The Al Thani Collection Foundation which extend from exhibitions, publications and lectures to sponsorships of projects at museums around the world.

The collection begins in Mughal India, under the most important dynasty that ruled the country, famous for its emeralds, diamonds, sapphires, rubies, weapons and objects that are bejeweled beyond belief. It traces the history of jewelry from early Mughal India through the Maharajas and their collaboration with the world’s most renowned jewelry houses to create some of the most exceptional pieces of jewelry ever made.

Among the many notable Mughal royal objects represented was a jade hilted dagger once owned by Shah Jahan, creator of the Taj Mahal, a jade cup with an ibex head so realistically carved that the Chinese Emperor Qianlong composed a poem in its honor, and a diamond and enamel covered gold huqqa pipe, revealing Indian opulence at its best.

Other bejeweled objects included a gem set mace, set on finial with large Mughal-cut diamond, and an emerald, ruby and diamond set gold state pen case and inkwell, a symbol of power at court.

From the regional courts within the Mughal empire, the collection encompasses sensational sarpechs (turban ornaments), important necklaces such as a diamond rivière necklace originally from the collection of the Nizam of Hyderabad comprising almost 200 carats of Golconda diamonds and the Nizam of Hyderabad’s diamond encrusted state sword, which illustrate the rich history of bejewelled-ornamentation in India.

Also featured were carved Mughal emeralds, ranging in weight from approximately 10 carats to over 200 carats, the famed ‘Arcot II’ diamond, presented to Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III by Muhammad Ali Wallajah Nawab of Arcot, and the magnificent ‘Mirror of Paradise’ D colour Internally Flawless Golconda diamond of 52.58 carats.

These significant historical pieces are complemented by an important selection of creations from the 20th century by the major houses of Bulgari, Cartier, Janesich, Lacloche, Linzeler, Mauboussin, and Mellerio.

The Patiala Ruby Choker created by Cartier in 1931 is a superb example of the fusion between India and the West. Commissioned by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, one of Cartier’s most important Indian clients of the 1920s and 1930s, he often traveled to Paris with trunks of diamonds and gemstones from his treasury for Cartier’s workshops.

Another significant example by Cartier is the Carved Emerald Brooch and interchangeable Jigha mounting which uses an impressive 19th century hexagonal carved emerald of 380.98 carats. The two-sided carving depicts Lord Rama, his wife Sita, Hanuman, and a poppy blossom on the reverse.

The Enamel and Diamond Peacock Aigrette, by Mellerio dits Meller, was purchased by the Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala in 1905 during one of his trips to Paris. The Maharaja was captivated by the peacock motif of the aigrette, a bird that is still greatly revered in India today. In later years, the aigrette would be worn by Anita Delgado, his fifth wife, whom he met while wearing the jewel on his own turban.

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