A rare Timurid carved marble Panel, possibly the back of a Throne Central Asia,  mid-15th century
Lot 85W
A rare Timurid carved marble Panel, possibly the back of a Throne
Central Asia, mid-15th century
Sold for £ 88,900 (US$ 116,932) inc. premium

Lot Details
A rare Timurid carved marble Panel, possibly the back of a Throne Central Asia,  mid-15th century A rare Timurid carved marble Panel, possibly the back of a Throne Central Asia,  mid-15th century A rare Timurid carved marble Panel, possibly the back of a Throne Central Asia,  mid-15th century A rare Timurid carved marble Panel, possibly the back of a Throne Central Asia,  mid-15th century A rare Timurid carved marble Panel, possibly the back of a Throne Central Asia,  mid-15th century
A rare Timurid carved marble Panel, possibly the back of a Throne
Central Asia, mid-15th century
of ogival form, the lower sides straight, rising upwards in a series of lobes to a formerly rounded or pointed top, deeply carved to the front with a central stylised flower-head surrounded by a lattice-work eight-pointed star, the petals enclosing lotus-heads, with six-petalled rosettes to the interstices, the whole opening out to a design of unfurling, blooming flower heads with overlapping, curling petals, a partial oval cartouche containing a split palmette extending down over a presumably plain base; the thick lobed sides plain; the reverse with central raised cypress tree with deeply carved leaves extending the length of the panel, with the petals of a large lotus flower head unfurling to either side, surrounded by a design of blooming flower heads similar to the face; with two holes to base, and a further hole to the top, mounted
67 x 55 x 17 cm.


  • Provenance
    Private French Collection, acquired in 1979.
    Iradj Moudjallal Collection, acquired in 1976, formerly in the Hossein Davoudi Collection.

    Iradj Moudjallal was an Iranian dealer who sold various works to the British Museum between 1969 and 1972. He also sold works to the Louvre.

    Hossein Davoudi served as Iranian Ambassador to Afghanistan in 1974 having previously worked in Vienna, Geneva and as Consul General in Istanbul. He was an avid collector of Islamic ceramics.

    This intriguing carved marble piece has an unusual decorative repertoire that combines formal, static geometric design with graceful, moving scrolling vegetal design typical of the naturalism that pervades the artistic and architectural works under the Timurid dynasty's (1370-1507) vast building programme. The closest parallels to the striking deeply carved design on our panel can be found in 15th century wood and stone carving featuring large blossoms and sharp jagged petals in tightly coiled arabesques, a design repertoire deemed as suitable for wooden doors as it was stone tombstones.

    The lavishly carved tombstone of Ghiyathuddin Mansur (d. AD 1445) at the madrasa of his son Sultan Husayn Mirza (Herat, circa AD 1485) contains very similar lotus flowers, flowerheads, and petals curling in wave-like crests over split-palmettes. A carved wood door in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Rogers Fund, 1923, 23.67.7) datable to the mid-15th century also contains a dense vegetal design replete with lotus flowers and scrolls.

    The close relationship between Timurid wood and stonework are evidence of a common source; the drawings and cartoons of the kitabkhana. We can find numerous paralells for our design in Timurid pattern sheets. A drawing of a vegetal design from the Diez album (f. 73.S.68 1) in the Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, which bears a striking resemblance to our panel's design, is (it has been suggested by scholars) a cartoon for a deeply carved surface such as stone (see T. Lentz and G. Lowry, Timur and the Princely Vision, Persian Art and Culture in the 15th Century, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1989, cat. no. 112). A further example dated circa 1425-50 displays a design similar to our throne panel with an eight-pointed star set within a lobed form with split palmette arabesque and central rosette (Topkapi Sarayi, Istanbul, H.2152, f.51a, illustrated in Lentz and Lowry, op. cit., fig. 67). Another example of striking similarity is an arabesque medallion again from the Diez album in Berlin (f.73.S.34,1) is illustrated in Lentz and Lowry, op. cit. cat. no. 100. Further parallels can be found in the numerous 15th century designs for cloud collars.

    The cypress tree, which runs the length of the reverse of the panel, frequently appears in Timurid painting and descriptions of Timurid gardens and is the Persian symbol of life. "Humay recognizes Humayun after their battle", from the Diwan of Khwaju Kirmani Baghdad, dated 1396AH (f. 23a) contains tall triangular trees with close leaves in the background. The famous landscape anthology written by the calligrapher Bibehani, 1398AD and now in the Turk ve Islam Islerlerli Muzesi, Istanbul (T1950, f. 250b, f. 128a) contains amongst its twelve paintings numerous depictions of cypress trees. Cypress trees appear in painted panels in both the Tuman Aqa Mausoleum in Samarqand and in the Tuman Aqa complex at Khusan (1440-41AD) along side painted garden images.

    As to the possible function of our marble panel form, we propose that it was used as the back of a throne-like structure, possibly in one of the many gardens established under the Timurids. Images of Timurid rulers receiving guests seated on a raised dais with a lobed highly decorated throne back behind are numerous. Most of those seen in manuscript illumination and miniature paintings are highly decorated with gold, or bright colours and patterned, and appear to be jewel-set. Ours may have been painted at one time, but certainly the form and proportions are similar. The use of marble would have suited an outdoor garden use and the decorative repertoire with its striking combination of formal and naturalistic design, lotus flowers and cypress tree spine give the impression of a bountiful garden against which the ruler or a member of his inner circle would have sat.

    Under Timur and his son Shahrukh (1377-1447AD) ceremonies receiving foreign embassies and guests were held in baghs (gardens) outside the city, in contrast to earlier rulers who used gardens as private retreats. The Bagh-i Dilgusha (Enchanting garden), the Bagh-i Chanar (Plane Tree Garden), the Bagh-i Naw (New Garden) and others were enclosed by walls and elaborate gates and planted with fruit trees. Timur and Shahrukh's decision to celebrate ceremonies in gardens and semi-permanent tents may reflect an effort to convey imperial claims within the pastoral traditions of the Barlas, the Mongol clan from which Timur claimed he was descended. The Spaniard Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo who led an embassy to Samarqand in 1403 described in detail the etiquette of being received by Timur in a formal garden ceremony, noting the series of raised dais on which were seated various members of Timur's family as well as his numerous wives (Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo, Embassy to Tamerlane, 1403-1406, trans. Guy le Strange, New York, 1928, p. 253).

    A marble structure, perhaps a throne, carved with arabesques, now located in the courtyard outside the mausoleum of the Gur-i Amir in Samarqand, circa 1400-1450, was according to popular folklore where Timurid coronation ceremonies took place. Historians discredit the belief that this was Timur's throne, but from the 17th century it was certainly used as coronation stone by the Bukharan emirs (Lentz and Lowry, op. cit. fig. 72).

    There is no doubt that this impressive and intricately decorated marble piece, carved in the round and stood upright, is a masterpiece of Timurid design and carving and stands among the most exceptional extant pieces of Timurid marble.
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