London – A rare and important 16th century Iznik pottery water bottle known as a surahi is to be offered at Bonhams Islamic and Indian Art sale in London on Tuesday 23 May 2023. Made in Turkey in around 1575, the 37.8 cm. high bottle is estimated at £100,000-200,000.
The water bottle comes from the collection of the Rolin family. The Belgian businessman Leon Rolin (1871-1950), nicknamed ‘The Lion of Cairo’, was the owner of one of the largest civil contractors in Egypt. His firm built the Heliopolis Palace Hotel, which on its opening in 1910 was the most luxurious hotel in Africa. (It was taken into public ownership in 1958 and is now a presidential palace).
Inspired by their surroundings, Leon and his wife, Madeleine formed a collection of Islamic art which was added to by their daughter Jacqueline. She later returned to Belgium and distributed her rich collection amongst her children and their descendants.
Oliver White, Bonhams Head of Islamic and Indian Art, said: “This beautiful bottle with its motifs of red roses, blue hyacinths and cypresses is a rare and important survivor. The cypress tree, which had been present as a decorative element in Turkey since the early 15th century began to appear on dishes and related forms such as this water bottle in the third quarter of the 16th Century.”
Other highlights of the 219-lot sale include:
- Two rare 17th/18th century Safavid embroidered cotton panels from the Caucasus, probably Azerbaijan. The panels were once in the collection of Lieutenant GeneralAugustus Pitt Rivers (1827-1900) ethnologist and archaeologist whose collection of around 22,000 objects became the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford. They are estimated at £60,000-80,000 and £40,000-60,000.
- A Timurid moulded pottery mihrab tile, Central Asia, second half of the 14th Century. This beautifully crafted terracotta panel takes the form of a mihrab arch. The terracotta has been delicately carved in high relief to give the pierced effect of a veil of lace, with the subtle luminous glazes of rich turquoise, white, lilac and aubergine floating against the deeply recessed ground.
- An illuminated Qur’an, Safavid Persia, Shiraz, second half of the 16th Century. Formerly in the collection of the late Dr Mohammed Said Farsi (1935-2019), it is estimated at £30,000-40,000.