This week was Sotheby’s spring Islamic Sale. For me, the most interesting – if perhaps not the most beautiful – was the dated ‘black-ring’ dish.
Amidst the mountain of Safavid-era ceramics that still exist worldwide, only a very (very!) few are dated. Of the 8 dated dishes known, 7 are in the so-called ‘black-ring’ style. I have been collecting details of all the dated pieces, and knew of the dish on sale this week only from a tiny and very fuzzy black-and-white image from when it was last sold, in October 1978.
I was therefore really pleased to be able to see, and handle, the dish – which is the earliest, and the smallest, of the Safavid dated dishes. Its’ centre has a faux-Chinese landscape, with cliffs, pagodas, willowy vegetation and water. Then the cavetto (or sloping sides) has the ‘black-ring’ design, with a Persian couplet and the number ‘65’. This is usually taken to mean 1065AH (equivalent to 1645AD). The rim has scrolling tendrils and lotus blossoms.
My photo of the front of the dish is not as perfect as Sotheby’s – which you can see if you click here
Sotheby’s does not, however, illustrate the back of the dish – which you can see here has a ‘tassel’ mark in the centre and six panels with geometric designs. Backs and bases are an important way of classifying ceramics – so I was really pleased to get sight of this.
The Sotheby’s write-up says that the dish is similar to one in the V&A collection, but I think they maybe have a typo here – as it is actually more similar to no.285 (rather than no.284) p.180 in Yolande Crowe’s ‘Persia and China’.
You can also see that the dish sold for around double its pre-sale estimate: for an amazing £7,500!
I now have details of the dishes in the British Museum (2), the V&A, the David Collection in Copenhagen, the Royal Ontario Musum and the Metropolitan – and this one, which is again back in a private collection. Just one more to go – in Berlin!
Next week, I’m going to show you something even more expensive in the Sothebys autumn sales – another engraved spinel – and I want to write more about the jewels, including those in the Treasury of National Jewels in Tehran.