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Gujarati tray sets world record by fetching 962,500 pounds at UK auction

The rare design, which depicts winged figures carrying birds or vessels, has never been seen before on an object of its type, the auction house said.

Press Trust Of India

Updated:October 8, 2015, 12:11 AM IST
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Gujarati tray sets world record by fetching 962,500 pounds at UK auction
The rare design, which depicts winged figures carrying birds or vessels, has never been seen before on an object of its type, the auction house said.
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London: An extraordinary 16th-century wooden tray from Gujarat has been sold for 962,500 pounds at an auction in the UK, setting a new world record for a rare piece of this type.

Originally estimated at 60,000-80,000 pounds, the unique mother-of-pearl and black lac overlaid tray went under the hammer for 10 times its estimate at Bonhams' Islamic and Indian Art sale in London this week.

The rare design, which depicts winged figures carrying birds or vessels, has never been seen before on an object of its type, the auction house said.

"It has been amazing to work on such an extraordinary piece. 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," said Oliver White, head of Bonhams Islamic and Indian Art Department.

The angels suggest Persian, Indian and European influences.

Strikingly similar imagery -- of a winged figure in Persian dress holding a peacock -- can be seen adorning the pavilions of Nur Jahan in the Ram Bagh at Agra.

These paintings provide an approximate date for this tray and imply that the circumstances of its production may have been somewhat unusual.

It seems the decorative scheme was intended for an Indian patron rather than for export to European or Turkish patrons, the general destination for most mother-of-pearl inlaid items.

Gujarat has been recognised as the centre of mother-of-pearl work since the beginning of the 16th century, when the King of Melinde presented Vasco de Gama with a gold and mother-of-pearl bedstead.

This particular tray can be attributed to northern Gujarat because of its characteristic mastic-inset and mother-of-pearl decorated domed cenotaph canopies, Bonhams experts said.

Mother-of-pearl trays are listed among the spoils of the Lodi Sultans of Delhi, when they were captured by Emperor Babur in 1526, and are specifically mentioned as being delivered to ladies at Kabul.

The auction, which saw bidders competing across the world, also featured a fine gem-set enamelled gold turban ornament (jigha), from 18th century northern India, which sold for 68,500 pounds, also smashing its pre-sale estimate of 30,000-40,000 pounds.

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