• Mahmoud Said's L'ile Heureuse made five times its estimate, selling for a record breaking £1.2m
• Strong market for Middle Eastern artwork confirmed as Bonhams sale totals £2.07m
Coming to the market for the first time in history, L'ile Heureuse (1927) – a masterpiece by Mahmoud Said (Egypt, 1897-1964) – smashed its estimate of £200,000-300,000, selling for £1.2m.
• This is a record for any Arab artwork sold in the past five years
• And the highest price ever achieved for a modern Middle Eastern artwork sold outside the region
The highlight in a wide-ranging sale of 20th Century Arab and Iranian Art, L'ile Heureuse or Happy Isle is regarded as a cultural landmark. Painted at an important turning point in Mahmoud Said's career, it was this work that established the artist's signature style – the stylized depiction of traditional Egyptian life.
Presented as a gift from the artist to his close friend Jean Nicolaides in the 1930s, the work was then lost for nearly half a century as it passed by descent through the Nicolaides family.
As Nima Sagharchi, Bonhams Head of the Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art Department said, "Discovering an historically important work of such illustrious provenance is near incredible, especially considering the increasingly open and accessible market. The fact that our catalogue was the first chance for collectors to appreciate the work in colour underscores the significance of the discovery."
Cultural figureheads from across the region were represented in this sale of 20th Century Arab and Iranian Art. Prime among them was:
• Charles Hossein Zenderoudi (Iran, b. 1937), the father of Iran's neo-traditionalist movement. His TCHAH TCHAHE JIME, a large and exquisite example of his widely celebrated take on traditional calligraphy, sold for an impressive £134,500.
• The supremely talented Farhad Moshiri (Iran, b. 1963) whose Untitled, a majestic example of his calligraphy series (estimated at £50,000-70,000), sold for £80,500.
• Kahlil Gibran (Lebanon, 1883-1931) whose work sold for a record price at Bonhams in April, saw more success at yesterday's auction. Unfinished Portrait of a Lady, depicting the sister of Gibran's friend, patron and some say lover, Mary Haskell, smashed through its estimate of £20,000-30,000 to sell for £68,500.
As Nima Sagharchi said, "The fact that Bonhams has achieved the highest price for a Middle Eastern artwork in recent memory not only cements us as the market leader in the field, but demonstrates that the category has broad international appeal and can more than hold its own outside of the region."
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. Today, the auction house offers more sales than any of its rivals. The main salerooms are in London, New York and Hong Kong. Sales are also held in the UK in Knightsbridge and Edinburgh; in the US, in San Francisco and Los Angeles; in Europe, in Paris and Stuttgart and in Sydney, Australia. Bonhams also has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of forthcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, please visit bonhams.com