A rare and unique Safavid gilded celestial Globe Iran, dated 1190AH/1776AD
Lot 55
A rare and unique Zand silver-gilt Celestial Globe Persia, dated AH 1190/ AD 1776
£40,000 - 60,000
US$ 67,000 - 100,000
Auction Details
Lot Details
A rare and unique Zand silver-gilt Celestial Globe
Persia, dated AH 1190/ AD 1776
of spherical form, cast in two pieces, with hole drilled at both celestial poles; with no constellation figures but the position of the 83 stars indicated by dots within a small circle; a number of unlabelled stars located near or in the elliptic; the celestial equator and the elliptic graduated by 2 degrees with every 6th indicated by a dotted line with no numerals written in either; the tropics lightly engraved.
6 cm. diam.; 70 g.


  • Provenance: Private UK collection.

    Not all celestial globes have constellation outlines on them: globes with stars alone are generally smaller and indicate only the major or most prominent stars. A very fine Safavid gilded example is in the Khalili Collection (Francis Maddison and Emilie Savage-Smith, Science, Tools and Magic, London, 1987, pp. 248-9, no. 143). The present example is the only known dated example securely attributable to the Zand period and it is, thus, an important addition to the small surviving group of Persian celestial globes. As this example is gilded, it is possible that this globe was made for the Zand ruler Mohammad Karim Khan Zand (AD 1751-79).

    The fact that it has a seam suggests it was produced in Persia rather than India, where celestial globes were cast in one piece using the cire perdue process.

    It is unclear if the unnamed stars were intended to be labelled and are unfinished or whether they were intentionally left unidentified.

    The following stars are labelled:

    al-judayy - the pole star [Polaris in Ursa Minor]
    al-qafzah al-thaniyah - the 'second leap' [two stars in Ursa Major, but only one star indicated]
    na'sh [4 stars in Ursa major]
    banat [3 stars in the tail of Ursa Major]
    saghir al-asad - an error for zahr al-asad 'the back of the lion' [1 star in Leo]
    simak ramih - [Arcturus, in Bootes]
    kaff al-khadib - the 'dyed hand' [5 stars in Cassiopeia]
    simak 'azal [Spica, in Virgo]
    al-ghafr - this is the name of the 15th lunar mansion; somewhat curious to have on the globe
    fam al-qitus - 'the mouth of Cetus' [1 star in Cetus]
    dhanab al-qitus - [Deneb Kaitos, in Cetus]
    surrat al-faras - 'the navel of the horse' [Sirrah, in Pegasus]
    janah al-faras - 'the wing of the horse' [Algenib in Pegasus]
    fam al-faras - 'the mouth of the horse' [1 star in Pegasus]
    dhanab al-dajajah - 'the tail of the bird' [Deneb in Cygnus]
    minqar al-dajajah - 'the bird's beak' [1 star in Cygnus]
    'ayn al-thawr - 'the eye of the bull' [Aldebaran in Taurus]
    mankib al-faras - 'the shoulder of the horse' [1 star in Pegasus] - this is an error. The star should be labelled mankib al-jawza' 'the shoulder of the giant' [Betelgeuse, in Orion]
    mirfaq al-thurayya - the elbow of thurayya' [Mirfak in Perseus]
    'ayyuq - [Capella, in Auriga]
    shi'ra yamaniyah 'abur - [Sirius, in Canis Major]
    shi'ra shamaniyah - [Procyon, in Canis Minor]
    rijl jawza [probably al-yusra] - 'the foot of the giant'[Rigel, in Orion]
    akhir al-nahr - 'the end of the river' [Achenar, in Eridanus]
    sab - 'the wild beast' [the name of the constellation Lupus, not a star name]
    dhanab - 'tail' [probably meant to be 'tail of the wild beast']
    rijl Qinturus - 'foot of the centaur' [Rigil Kent in Centaurus]
    ra's al-iklil - 'the top of the crown' one of the stars in Corona Australis (an unusual star name)
    rukhat al-rami - 'the knee of the archer' [1 star in Sagittarius]
    fam al-hut - 'the mouth of the fish' [1 star in Piscis Austrinus]

    At the north celestial pole:
    qutb shimal [the north pole], badly worn

    At the south celestial pole:
    sanah AH 1190/ AD 1776
    qutb junubi [the south pole]

    Bonhams would like to thank Professor Emilie Savage-Smith of the Oriental Institute, Oxford for her assistance with the cataloguing of this lot.
  1. Oliver White
    Specialist - Islamic and Indian Art
    101 New Bond Street
    London, W1S 1SR
    United Kingdom
    Work +44 20 7468 8303
    FaxFax: +44 20 7468 8283