The Sarikhani Collection

10 December, 2015   |  Author: Mark Peaker, Co-founder & CEO of 3812 Gallery

We live today in a world of art auctions and record setting prices for pieces that many of us have never heard of or most likely will never see with our own eyes. Equally the name Sarikhani remains unknown to many, yet this name resounds loudly with those who have an understanding and appreciation of the art of Persia. The Sarikhani Collection is dedicated to arts from Iran from the 3rd millennia BC to the 18th century.

The Sarikhani Collection is the greatest privately held collection of Iranian art ever assembled. The Sarikhani family, themselves of Iranian descent, have created a collection that was once dispersed across the world or buried for eternity and brought it together under one roof; an Iranian family pride in their cultural heritage which pays homage to the artistic capabilities of the Iranian people.

Art of Persia is the art of Islam and its religion, in which the word is paramount. Many of the pieces in the collection bear inscriptions, proof that literacy was widespread and by no means confined to the royal courts of the time. The art of Persia is expressed through a wide range of media – the arts of books, ceramics, textiles, carpets, metalwork, glass, ivory and woodwork.

The landscape of Persian art is rich and varied. From the Iranian plateau over a period of two millennia, Persian art has reflected the physical geography and natural environment of the land; in the west, rising out of the Tigris – Euphrates riverine plains, the Iranian uplands border the Levant and the Mediterranean world into which at various periods the rulers of Iran have successfully carried their culture.

Persian art of ‘Greater Iran’ extended well beyond the borders of the country we know today. It is a remarkable fact that many of the greatest centres of Persian political power and cultural prominence – Ctesiphon, Babylon, Herat, Merv, Bukhara, Samarqand and many more, are no longer within Iranian territory. Iran nevertheless controlled routes of great antiquity providing corridors leading west to east from Anatolia and Mesopotamia to Central Asia and north to south from the Caucasus to the Persian Gulf and on to India. The peoples of this vast and varied land have enormously enriched Persian art.

The Sarikhani Collection has allowed all this to be seen together, it is a breathtaking timeline into the history of Persia and the merging of cultures between the traders of the old Silk Road. The collection is a celebration for an understanding of Persian art.

Laqabi Albarello
This rare and beautiful jar is probably Raqqa (Syrian) and dates from the 12th century being of stonepaste with incised decoration in cobalt, torquoise and purple pigment under a transparent glaze; it is 18.5cm in height with a diameter (shoulder) of 13cm. The jar is decorated with a combination of moulded and incised decoration in a distinctive form known aslagabi – derived from a Persian word meaning ‘water-stained’ and whilst originally thought to have been invented in Iran, more recent evidence points to it having been created in Syria, probably in Raqqa. Most of this style was reserved for dishes. This rare vertical jar would have been fired standing upright and as a result, the colours flowed copiously during the firing, elegantly extending the beak and wings of the three birds to create an almost surreal elegance.

Lajvardina Bottle
Kashan or Tabriz, mid 13th to mid 14th century, stonepaste with opaque blue glaze, overglaze painted with red, white and black pigments with leaf gilding; 29.4cm in height. Ilkanid pottery introduced noticeable innovations in terms of shapes and decorations; these stylistic clearly reflect the tastes and inclinations of the new Mongol patrons and their orientation towards China in cultural matters. Hulegu, founder of the Ilkanid dynasty in Iran was a brother of Qubilai, founder of the Yuan dynasty and ultimately Emperor of China. There was considerable interaction between the two domains on both commercial and political matters. This had a direct impact on the cultural arts of the time. Many Chinese ornamental motifs such as lotuses, peonies, cloud bands, dragons and phoenixes were introduced into Islamic decorative practices during the Ilkanid period. On this rare and beautiful vase, an identical scene is depicted on both sides. Two phoenix-type birds swoop towards one another against a background of sinuous lotus stems, this motif is well known from Chinese textiles as well as from a (still existing) stone relief in the Yuan capital of Dadu.

Iran, 16th century; double cloth, silk and silver thread with silk core; 16.2 x 9.5cm (fragment). An important textile in the history of Persian production, both for the complex technique employed and for its iconography. It is a fragment belonging to a group of textiles made by the complicated double-cloth technique, in which the design appears on both side of the cloth, creating a positive-negative chromatic effect. Some of the details of the design, in particular the feathered headgear, possibly reflect the development of international commerce in the Indian Ocean. However, the boats and the way they are rowed, the passenger’s clothing, the flag with a dragon fluttering from the mast, the style of the fish and ducks – all suggest a Chinese influence. It is possible the scenes depicted in this textile were inspired by scenes on late Ming-period porcelain, which was highly popular in Iran during the Safavid period.

All pictures courtesy of The Sarikhani Collection.