Faeq Hassan (Iraq, 1914-1992) The History of Iraq each panel 186.5 x 300cm
Lot 31
Faeq Hassan
(Iraq, 1914-1992)
The History of Iraq each panel 186.5 x 300cm
£ 150,000 - 250,000
US$ 200,000 - 330,000

Lot Details
Faeq Hassan (Iraq, 1914-1992) The History of Iraq each panel 186.5 x 300cm Faeq Hassan (Iraq, 1914-1992) The History of Iraq each panel 186.5 x 300cm Faeq Hassan (Iraq, 1914-1992) The History of Iraq each panel 186.5 x 300cm Faeq Hassan (Iraq, 1914-1992) The History of Iraq each panel 186.5 x 300cm Faeq Hassan (Iraq, 1914-1992) The History of Iraq each panel 186.5 x 300cm
Faeq Hassan (Iraq, 1914-1992)
The History of Iraq
oil on canvas, in three parts (triptych)
signed "Faeq H" in Arabic (lower right and verso of each panel), executed circa 1970
186.5 x 100cm (73 7/16 x 39 3/8in).each panel 186.5 x 300cm


  • Provenance:
    Property from a private collection, Germany
    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner's family.

    The present set of paintings from the doyen of twentieth century Iraqi art, Faik Hassan, without doubt, form the most comprehensive, remarkable and important offering of this prolific artists work ever to come to market.
    Equally remarkable is the collection from which these works are offered: a private German collection of Iraqi art housed in a magnificent mansion in the North German countryside.

    Containing over a hundred works of Iraqi art, with a focus on pioneers such as Faik Hassan, the group of works is an expression of the collectors deep personal connection with the artists during the years he spent in Baghdad between 1950-197-'s

    Starting with the magisterial "History of Iraqi Art" which celebrates the major stages of Iraqi civilization, the collection proceeds with seminal examples from Faik Hassan's cubist ("Two Men"), Abstract ("Abstract Couple") and Expressionist periods, providing a fully formed and complete survey of the artists oeuvre.

    The word "masterpiece" is often overused in the context of the art market, but in the case of the present triptych by Faeq Hassan it is a most deserved and appropriate classification. Resplendent, ambitious and grandiose, "History of Iraq" is perhaps one of the purest and most potent expressions of the central theme of Modern Iraqi Art; the search for a means to express the totality of Iraqi identity in a distinct visual language

    Harking back to Iraq's glorious past, beginning with the formidable Assyrian and Babylonian Empires, through to the Islamic Golden Age, and resembling the mighty imperial bass reliefs of bygone Kingdoms, Faeq Hassan's historical procession is a testament to the grand historical legacy of the "cradle of civilization"

    Inspired by the 13th century manuscript artist Yahya Al Wasiti, revered by Iraqi modernists as the forefather of their countries art movement, Faeq Hassan builds on the style of Wasiti's rich manuscript Illustrations but on a monumental scale.

    Appearing in the market for the first time, this colossal homage to Iraqi history was acquired directly from the artist, and adorned the grand hallway of his mansion in the German countryside for many years. Its grandeur, significance and rarity warrant its inclusion in any major collection of Modern art from the region

    "I, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, brought about the rule of righteousness in the land, destroyed the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind."

    A History of Iraq

    Mesopotamia—mainly modern-day Iraq and Kuwait—is often referred to as the cradle of civilization because some of the most influential early city-states and empires first emerged there—although it's not the only place! Its modern name comes from the Greek for middle—mesos—and river—potamos—and literally means a "country between two rivers." Those two rivers are the Tigris and Euphrates. Not only was Mesopotamia one of the first places to develop agriculture, it was also at the crossroads of the Egyptian and the Indus Valley civilizations. This made it a melting pot of languages and cultures that stimulated a lasting impact on writing, technology, language, trade, religion, and law.

    Mesopotamia is the site of the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution from around 10,000 BC. It has been identified as having "inspired some of the most important developments in human history including the invention of the wheel, the planting of the first cereal crops and the development of cursive script, mathematics, astronomy and agriculture."

    Stage 1: The Sumerian and Babylonian Empires
    The Sumerians were the first humans to form a civilization. They invented writing and government. They were organized in city-states where each city had its own independent government ruled by a king that controlled the city and the surrounding farmland. Each city also had its own primary god. Sumerian writing, government, and culture would pave the way for future civilizations.

    Eventually, the city of Babylon became the most powerful city in Mesopotamia. Throughout the history of the region, the Babylonians would rise and fall. At times the Babylonians would create vast empires that ruled much of the Middle East. The Babylonians were the first to write down and record their system of law

    1. Sumerian Drinking Scene
    The first scene depicts an ancient Sumerian couple drinking at a banquet; an important reminder that it was the ancient Sumerians that are credited with the invention of alcoholic beverages. Below, a Sumerian cylinder seal depicts the same spouted vessel that is illustrated in Hassan's artwork

    2. Relief of King Ur-Nanshu of Sumer
    The second and third tiers of the composition celebrate the agricultural and architectural achievements of the Sumerians and specifically Kings Ur-Nanshe and Ur-Nammu of the Early Dynastic Period.

    King Ur-Nanshe was a renowned leader of the Sumerians, the Perforated Relief of King Ur-Nanshe , on display at the Louvre (right), portrays him as a builder of temples and canals, thus a preserver of order perceived to be bestowed by divine favor. In this context, the figure carrying a basket on his head is a symbol of construction, carrying material to the lay foundations of a temple.

    Below, the king Ur-Nammu, a renowned "law giver" himself is depicted crowned with a white crescent, a symbol of Sin/Nana, the ancient Sumerian God of the moon.

    3. Code of Hammurabi
    The bottom frieze is dominated by the most important scene: Hamurabi receiving his royal insignia from the god Shamash (represented by the star symbol above). The Code of Hammurabi, dating back to about 1754 BC. It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The code consists of 282 laws and punishments and is considered one of the first ever concise set of legal codes in world history

    Stage 2: The Assyrians
    Assyrians - The Assyrians came out of the northern part of Mesopotamia. They were a warrior society. They also ruled much of the Middle East at different times over the history of Mesopotamia. Much of what we know about the history of Mesopotamia comes from clay tablets found in Assyrian cities.

    1. Lion hunt of Ashurbanipal
    The royal Lion Hunt of Ashurbanipal is shown on a famous group of Assyrian palace reliefs from the North Palace of Nineveh . They are widely regarded as "the supreme masterpieces of Assyrian art" They show a formalized ritual "hunt" by King Ashurbanipal (reigned 668 – c. 631/627 BC) in an arena, where captured Asian lions were released from cages for the king to slaughter with arrows, spears, or his sword. Lion slaughter was an activity strictly reserved for Royalty; and thus served as a sign of privilege, kingship, and dominion over nature

    2. Conquests of Ashurnasirpal II (From Nimrud)
    Ashurnasirpal II succeeded his father, Tukulti-Ninurta II, in 883 BC. During his reign he embarked on a vast program of expansion, first conquering the peoples to the north in Asia Minor as far as Nairi and exacting tribute from Phrygia, then invading Aram (modern Syria) conquering the Aramaeans and neo Hittites between the Khabur and the Euphrates Rivers.

    3. Assyrian Banqueting Scene
    The Assyrian king was famed as the main promoter of big feasts and special events, during which he played the role of leader and benefactor of his country. Food appears frequently in texts and images originating with the royal inner circle, in the guise of offerings made to the gods, tributes presented by vassal kings, rations distributed to officers or court personnel, and meals consumed in different circumstances

    Stage 3: The Islamic Golden Age
    The Islamic Golden Age is the era in the history of Islam, traditionally dated from the 8th century to the 13th century, during which much of the historically Islamic world was ruled by various caliphates, and science, economic development and cultural works flourished.[1][2][3] This period is traditionally understood to have begun during the reign of the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (786 to 809) with the inauguration of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, where scholars from various parts of the world with different cultural backgrounds were mandated to gather and translate all of the world's classical knowledge into the Arabic language

    1. Scenes from One Thousand and One Nights
    The top two friezes depict perhaps the most popular and pivotal episodes from the famed Arabian Nights. The tales told by Scheherazade over a thousand and one nights to delay her execution by the vengeful King Shahryar have become among the most popular in both Eastern and Western literature. From the epic adventures of 'Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp' to the farcical 'Young Woman and her Five Lovers' and the social criticism of 'The Tale of the Hunchback', the stories depict a fabulous world of all-powerful sorcerers, jinns imprisoned in bottles and enchanting princesses.

    At the very top a stern King Shahriyar demands a bride from his courtiers, the central scene depicts a weeping vizier whose daughter, Scherezade, volunteers to become Shahriyars fatefull bride, thus sparking the events which prompt the recital of the stories of 1001 Nights

    2. Abu Zaid complaining to the Wali of his Poverty: illustration from Al Wasiti's Maqamat

    The final illustration a scene from al-Wasiti Maqamat (Assemblies), comes from a collection of stories of a picaresque hero "Abou Zayd". The author, al-Hariri (1054-1122 CE), is an important figure in Arabic literary history. The illustrations belong to the Baghdad School of miniature illustration, and depict scenes of ordinary life. Al Wasiti's work was a major influence not only on Faeq Hassan, but on Iraqi modernism in general, and many artists claimed to be taking up the mantle of Al Wasiti given his earnest, almost comical and frivolous take on local scenes of every day Baghdad life, a subject matter which motivated so many of Iraq's modern painters

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that the dimensions of each panel are 186.5 x 100 cm.
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations


If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine, Coins & Medals and Motor Cars and Motorcycles:
A successful bidder at this sale will be required to pay Bonhams 1793 Limited ("Bonhams") a premium calculated as follows:
25% on the first £175,000 of the hammer price
20% on the excess of £175,001 and up to £3,000,000 of the hammer price
12.5% on the excess of £3,000,001 of the hammer price
VAT at 20% will be payable on the amount of the premium.
The premium is payable for the services to be provided by Bonhams in the Buyer's Agreement which is contained in the catalogue for this Sale and for the opportunity to bid for the Lot at the Sale.

Payment Notices

For payment information please refer to the sale catalogue.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

  1. Noor Soussi
    Auction administration - Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 8345
  2. 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
Similar Items