Sohrab Sepehri (Iran, 1928-1980) The Hanging Clothes

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Lot 523*
Sohrab Sepehri
(Iran, 1928-1980)
The Hanging Clothes
Sold for £ 146,500 (US$ 192,774) inc. premium

Lot Details
Sohrab Sepehri (Iran, 1928-1980) The Hanging Clothes
Sohrab Sepehri (Iran, 1928-1980)
The Hanging Clothes
oil on canvas, framed
siged "Sohrab Sepehri" in Farsi (lower left), executed circa early 1970's
120 x 80cm (47 1/4 x 31 1/2in).


  • Property from the collection of Dr Ehsan Yarshater, sold in benefit of Encylopaedia Iranica

    Ehsan Yarshater

    "Mr. Yarshater is the last of a generation of scholars who believed it possible to master the grand sweep of human history" – New York Times

    It is a rare privilege indeed for Bonham's to present two formidable works from Iran's most celebrated modern artists, from the collection of perhaps the most lauded, acclaimed, and assiduous scholars of Iranian studies, in benefit of one of the most ambitious academic projects undertaken in the field of Middle Eastern studies this century.

    Dr Ehsan Yarshater is a gift to Iranians worldwide; born in Hamedan in 1920, Yarshater is the founder and director of The Center for Iranian Studies , and Hagop Kevorkian Professor Emeritus of Iranian Studies at Columbia University. As the first full-time professor of Persian at a U.S. university since World War II he has been a seminal figure in championing the cause of Persian studies within Western academia for nearly a century.

    Dr Yarshater studied Persian language and literature at the University of Tehran and Iran philology (Old and Middle Iranian) at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London with Walter Bruno Henning. In 1961 Dr. Yarshater was appointed to teach Iranian studies at Columbia. He is known for a series of immense undertakings: he was the general editor of a 40-volume translation of al-Tabari's 10th-century history of the world; editor of some of the Cambridge History of Iran; and the founding editor of a classic multivolume series on Persian history and language.

    Resolute in spirit, indefatigable in his devotion to promoting and preserving the culture of his native Iran, Dr Yarshater's unrelenting work ethic belies his age and seniority. At the age of 53, he embarked on his magnum opus, a definitive encyclopaedia of Iranian history and culture, a project he continues to champion today, often working up to twelve hours a day with his team of editors in order to inch ever closer to completing the Herculean task of cataloguing the history, literature, folklore and tradition of a culture spanning over 2500 years.

    When asked about the magnitude of his undertaking, Professer Yarshater response reveals his sincerity and unnerving sense of mission: "Am I crazy? I suffer from an ailment and that is whenever something cultural needs to be done, I think it is my duty to do. That is why I am the General Editor of [this] series of books, without receiving a salary. Were it not for this craze I should not be working 11 hours a day from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM with an hour for lunch, including all weekends and holiday, at the age of 93."

    A published authority on Modern Iranian Art, Yarshater's (see "Modern Persian Artists." Ehsan Yarshater, ed., Iran Faces the Seventies. New York, Washington and London: Praeger Publishers, 1977, and Ehsan Yarshater, "Contemporary Persian Painting," Highlights of Persian Art, R. Ettinghausen and E. Yarshater, eds., Boulder, Colorado, 1979, pp. 363-79) Ehsan Yarshater's appreciation of the full gamut of Iranian culture reveals a totality, and eclecticism which is near extinct in modern academia. Lauded by the US state department as a "scholar of a different calibre", Yarshater is a living embodiment of the achievements that a single person can accrue when they pour every fibre of their spirit into their calling.

    Encyclopaedia Iranica

    The Encyclopædia Iranica is dedicated to the study of Iranian civilization in the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. The academic reference work will eventually cover all aspects of Iranian history and culture as well as all Iranian languages and literatures, facilitating the whole range of Iranian studies research from archaeology to political sciences.

    The Encyclopædia is an international, collaborative project, based at Columbia University in the City of New York. Its compilation is overseen by the general editor Ehsan Yarshater and a team of Consulting Editors, all internationally renowned scholars of Iranian studies, who assist in the commissioning and editing of entries. The in-house editorial staff works at Columbia's Center for Iranian Studies. Entries are solicited through invitation only, and are subjected to peer review to ensure factual reliability, scholarly objectivity, and political independence.

    In recognition of its high academic achievements the Encyclopædia has received continuous financial support, since its inception in the 1970s, from major sponsors, such as the National Endowment for the Humanities. The non-profit Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation is dedicated to guaranteeing the Encyclopædia's intellectual independence by covering parts of its operating budget.

    The first fascicle of the Encyclopædia's printed edition appeared in 1982, while the first version of the web-based digital edition was established in 1996. This digital version was developed in 2009-2010, in collaboration with the web design company Electric Pulp, to provide a more user-friendly interface for accessing the Encyclopædia's online content.

    Since its inception as a non-profit project, the Encyclopaedia Iranica's financial well-being has depended on the generosity of its supporters. The continuation of this monumental project requires the support of all who value the preservation and dissemination of Iranian culture. Contributions to the Encyclopaedia Iranica are a bequest to posterity, which will ensure that Iran's rich and varied cultural heritage is recorded and safeguarded for future generations.

    "Full sun.
    Starlings flock,
    nasturtiums burst into blossom,,,

    And me, cracking open a pomegranate I think to myself,
    "If only the seeds of the heart could be so transparent,"
    - Sohrab Sepehri

    Property from the collection of Dr Ehsan Yarshater
    Acquired directly from the artist by the above circa early 1970's

    With a provenance as illustrious as its composer, "Hanging Clothess has been in Dr Ehsan Yarshater's collection since it was acquired directly from the artist in the mid 1970's. In its grace, naturalism, and sophistication, it is a work utterly faithful to the tenets of Sepehri's oeuvre; demonstrating an almost perfect confluence of Sepehri's strong representational impulse propelled by his love of the vernacular of Kashan and the more opaque abstraction inherited from the Eastern painting traditions he was so fluently versed in.

    Poet, artist and intellectual, Speehri's mild manner and withdrawn persona belied the richness of expression manifest in his works. Enraptured by nature, Sepehri had a deep and profound attachment to the topography of his native Kashan, the "oasis city" where trees and vegetation sprung amidst the arid desert. The genesis of all of Sepehri's work was firmly rooted in this landscape, and whilst he is sometimes miscategorised as an artist solely pre-occupied with nature, the fullness of Sepehri's veneration of nature finds as potent a fruition in his representation of the dwellings that inhabit it.

    Sepehri had a firm belief in the inherent grace and nobility of the nature he so admired. Inspired by Eastern traditions, with which he had direct contact during travels in India and Japan, Sepehri came to see the purity of the natural world as an antidote to the corruption of the human condition. Thus, when depicting human and architectural subject matters, Sepehri carried the tonal, textural and botanical qualities of nature into his compositions.

    This is a testament to the harmonious symbiosis between nature and civilization in the rural context; buildings composed of local materials in a vernacular architectural language are thoroughly embedded with their landscape, they do not dominate or seek to conquer and subjugate in the manner of the dehumanizing urban sprawl Sepehri so dreaded when he exclaimed his "fear of cities where the black earth is pasture to cranes".

    Stylistically, the present work is a scintillating example of the very palpable sense of tension between naturalism and abstraction manifest in Sepehri's work. Sepehri was conceptually engaged by the universality of Zen painting, its advocacy of tonal minimalism, and its shedding of excess and detail in favour of exploring true meaning through a process of efficient meditative brushstrokes, however this was heavily tempered by his desire not to forsake the identity of his surroundings, ultimately, his attachment and love for his native home would never grant abstraction a total victory, and it is in this tension, that artistic sincerity is most deeply revealed.
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  1. Nima Sagharchi
    Specialist - Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 8342
    FaxFax: +44 20 7468 8283
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