A synchroncity of antiques – Islamic antiquities dominate

It seems now that Islamic art is absolutely everywhere, and the amount of money that it’s fetching – congruent with the amount of ire it’s raising in some instances – is pretty amazing.

I’ve already written about it a few times this week and last week.

It started the attempted sale of some armor once, possibly, belonging to a revered Sikh Guru. Then a 12th century key to the holiest pilgrimage site in Mecca, and now, just yesterday, a dagger once belonging to Shah Jahan – arguably the greatest of India’s Golden Age Mugal emporers – the man who built the Taj Mahal, and raised Islamic art and architecture to amazing levels in his reign, sold at Bonham’s in London for nearly $3,000,000.

You have to admit, looking at it, that it’s a thing of extraordinary beauty, made even more important by its provenance of having belonged to Shah Jahan, a man from whom very few personal relics survive. $3M seems like alot to spend, but as I wrote about the Hajj key yesterday, reclaiming cultural history is an expensive game, and them that have the bucks don’t necessarily think of it as a numbers game. Face it, if you have all the bills in the Monopoly game, there’s nothing on the board that’s out of range.

Again, it went to an anonymous bidder who didn’t wish to be identified. Who knows who it is, but most likely it was someone who was unhappy almsot 20 years ago when the Shah of Iran sold it to Jacques Desenfans, along with a lot of other things in the sale, on a visit in 1969, when the Shah’s empire was just starting to wobble. That bit of its history has been more downplayed in the hubbub over its sale, but it’s all part of the history of such a remarkable piece.

I’m not sure if the dagger is considered a holy relic, so I have no feeling on it being sold. If it is considered such, along with much of the other Islamic “art” that’s been coming on the block, then I do have to take issue. Pieces of spiritual significance, whatever the faith, shouldn’t be made available for a price. I have to think, though, the Shah Jahan dagger isn’t considered spiritually important for Muslims, because there was no outcry, such as the one over the Sikh armor.

Shah Jahan’s buildings and his name dot India, most notably the Taj, which he built as a masoleum for his wife, Mumtaz, when she died. I’ve seen the Taj Mahal, and it’s an amazing site, especially if you can get there very early in the morning before the touts, the cars, the tourists and the choking, nasty smog from the copious cars the swarm Agra all day. There are few buildings in the world that can match it, or its creativity.

Leave a Reply