Sotheby's to sell the Pearl Carpet of Baroda
Sotheby's is delighted to announce that it is to sell the Pearl Carpet of Baroda, one of the most extraordinary masterpieces of its kind ever to come on the market.The carpet will form the centrepiece of Sotheby's inaugural series of sales in Doha and be sold alongside other objects in the Arts of the Islamic World auction on 19th March 2009.
The carpet is traditionally believed to have been created as a gift for the tomb of the Prophet Mohammad in Medina and was commissioned by “Gaekwar” Kande Rao, the Maharaja of Baroda. The intended gift was clearly never delivered as the Maharaja died before he made the donation and the carpet therefore remained in his family.
Bidding on this will start around US$5 million but is expected to rise considerably higher. Mary Jo Otsea, Worldwide Director of Rugs and Carpets at Sotheby's said: “It is fitting that an historic object as magnificent and unique as the Pearl Carpet of Baroda is a major highlight of our inaugural series of auctions in Doha. The carpet has never appeared at auction before and the sale therefore represents an unparalleled opportunity to acquire an extraordinarily significant work of art. I am delighted that Middle Eastern collectors will be able to view this stunning work.”
This splendid carpet has a surface that is entirely embellished, created using an estimated two million natural seed pearls, known as “Basra” pearls originally collected in the waters of the Gulf. The design is picked out in coloured glass beads and the whole richly encrusted and embellished with gold set diamonds and precious stones in their hundreds. The design of the work echoes many of the details found in Safavid and Mughal carpet designs with dense fields of swirling flowering vines that here form a deconstructed series of three Mughal-style arches. Whilst this commission appears to have been unique, parts of the design reflect 18th-century India's fashionable millefleurs motif. Across the centre there are three large round 'rosettes' each made of table cut diamonds set in silvered gold. Further smaller diamond rosettes in the border, all of which are embellished with sapphires, rubies and emeralds set in gold.
It is widely reported that when he commissioned the work, the Maharaja wanted to create a carpet that would be suitable for the tomb of the Prophet Mohammad in Medina. These reports suggest that he wanted it to cover the tomb in a way that echoed the tomb of Mughal Empress Mumtaz Mahal in the Taj Mahal. It is also reported that the Maharaja turned to Islam later in his life, but it is no surprise that his death derailed any plans to send the carpet overseas. The work therefore entered the family collection and remained there for over 100 years. The carpet is testament to the splendour and opulence that surrounded the Maharaja and his court. Exhibited in 1902-3 as a highlight of the great Delhi Exhibition displaying the wealth of the Maharajas, it was latermoved to Monaco with Maharani Sita Devi – the 'most flamboyant Maharani' – who took the carpet along with her jewellery collection when she moved to the Mediterranean. For the first time in over 80 years the carpet was once again showcased in the 1985 landmark exhibition India at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.