Relics from two lost worlds

Relics from two lost worlds
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First Published: Wed, Feb 18 2009. 01 15 AM IST

The Pearl Carpet of Baroda. The white area comprises of thousands of small Basra pearls.
The Pearl Carpet of Baroda. The white area comprises of thousands of small Basra pearls.
Updated: Wed, Feb 18 2009. 12 10 PM IST
March will be a high-profile month for auction house Sotheby’s. A royal antique carpet like no other, and antique furniture and works of art from slain Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace’s villa on the shore of Lake Como in Italy will go under the hammer.
The Pearl Carpet of Baroda. The white area comprises of thousands of small Basra pearls.
The Pearl Carpet of Baroda, estimated to be 144 years old and which might have been intended as a gift for the tomb of Prophet Mohammad at Medina, will be up for auction on 19 March, and bidding will start at $5 million (around Rs24.5 crore). The carpet, commissioned by Gaekwar Kande Rao, the Maharaja of Baroda circa 1865, is a masterpiece with its surface embellished with between 1.2-1.5 million Basra pearls. Part of the Maharaja’s family collection for at least 100 years, it will be the centrepiece at the Arts of the Islamic World auction in Doha.
Besides the pearls, three large diamond-filled rosettes also adorn the carpet. The rosettes are circled by small, natural Basra pearls of slightly larger size, measuring approximately 3-4mm; the total estimated weight of the pearls is 30,000 carats. The designs worked in the rosettes are set with approximately 2,500 table-cut and rose-cut diamonds, approximately 350-400 carats in total, all set in silver topped gold or blackened gold; the motifs are further enhanced with foil backed rubies, emeralds and sapphires set in gold.
The three large diamond-filled rosettes in the centre of the carpet.
Rubies, emeralds and sapphires and precious stones, numbering in the hundreds, as well as glass beads, are also used as embellishments. The foundation of the 5ft 8 inches by 8ft 8 inches carpet is silk and fine deer hide. The design is similar to details found in Safavid and Mughal carpet designs, with swirling flowering vines.
From Indian royalty, Sotheby’s moves to Italian designer Versace’s impressive collection of continental furniture, sculpture, silver works and 18th and 19th century paintings—the 550 lots are expected to fetch in excess of £2 million (around Rs14 crore) on 18 March. A few days prior to the sale, Sotheby’s will recreate highlights of certain rooms of the villa in its New Bond Street galleries, to display Versace’s eye for beauty and the spectacular setting in which he lived.
There are 32 smaller diamond rosettes around the border, all of which are embellished with sapphires, rubies and emeralds set in gold.
Villa Fontanelle, a 19th century estate in Moltrasio, around 49km from Milan, was said to be Versace’s favourite home and weekend retreat. Highlights of the sale include life-size casts of Antonio Canova’s Pugilists, which were in Versace’s own bedroom and a rare pair of Italian cherry wood breakfront bookcases by Karl Roos, circa 1814 (estimated £60,000-100,000 and £80,000-120,000, respectively). Among the paintings is Hercules at the Crossroads (estimated £25,000-40,000), painted in Italy in 1820 and attributed to Pelagio Palagi, as well as a collection of paintings on glass, miniatures and many works depicting Roman emperors.
Property from the Lake Como residence of Gianni Versace will be auctioned on 18 March in London. The Pearl Carpet of Baroda will be auctioned on 19 March at the Arts of the Islamic World auction in Doha. Visit www.sothebys.com for more information.
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First Published: Wed, Feb 18 2009. 01 15 AM IST