15th Century Timurid Manuscript Frontispiece at Christie's


Baysunghur in the guise of Solomon with the Queen of Sheba

A painting which was part of the frontispiece of a Timurid manuscript, perhaps a copy of The Conference of the Birds, comes under the hammer at Christie's next week at its Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds auction with an estimate of £150,000-£200,000 ($186,000 - $249,000).

It probably depicts the meeting of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, a popular subject in Persian painting and particularly so from the 1480s, although full-page Timurid painting of this type is extremely rare. They are on their thrones in court with many officials, a golden sky and plenty of flora and fauna, especially ornithological.

The scene was often depicted across a double frontispiece of manuscripts, sometimes with the patron of the manuscript inserted into the scene and here the face of King Solomon bears a very strong likeness to that of the Emperor Baysunghur (1397-1433). He was a significant patron of the arts and commissioned a number of portraits of himself, with a rounded face and feathery moustache and wearing a gold crown and gold earring with a single hanging pearl.

The folio coming to auction would originally have been half of the manuscript’s frontispiece, but has since been separated from the other pages.