Treasure trove of artworks by Turkish princess, mother of claimant to the Iraqi throne, surfaces at Bonhams

The late Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid, (1901 – 1991) a Turkish artist whose work blended the elements of Islamic and Byzantine art with western influences, was married into the Hashemite royal family of Iraq and is the mother of Prince Ra'ad, the claimant to the Iraqi throne.

A fabulous collection of her work, previously unknown, will be sold by Bonhams on October 2nd in New Bond Street. The collection came to light when a former employee of the family unearthed a box containing over 150 sketches, drawings, canvases, notebooks and letters, given to him when the artist moved residences.

Alice Bailey, Head of the Dept comments: "This wonderful body of works, produced over many years, shows the development of this artist very clearly from the 1940s until the 1970s. She was one of the most important and influential abstract artists of the 20th century having exhibited in Paris, Berlin, Istanbul and London. It is of major historical and academic interest as well as of great interest to those collectors who have always appreciated her work."

Fahrelnissa was born in Istanbul into a prominent Ottoman family. Her father was the brother of the Grand Vizier and her mother was from an artistic family in Crete, sister of the author of the Fisherman of Halicarnassus.

She was then one of the first women to attend the Fine Arts Academy (Güzel Sanatlar Akademisi) in Istanbul and later in Paris at the Academie Ranson.

After a first marriage that produced two children she married Prince Zeid bin Huseyin, the ambassador of Iraq to Ankara and brother of King Faisal I.

Her first one-woman show was held in Istanbul in 1944, followed by exhibitions in London and Paris with a New York show in 1950 at the Hugo Gallery. She went on to participate in almost 50 exhibitions in Europe, U.S.A. and the Middle East.

Her husband died in 1970, and in 1975 she moved to Amman, Jordan to be close to her son Ra'ad. She established in the city the Fahrelnissa Zeid Institute of Fine Arts. She died in 1991 and is buried in the Royal Mausoleum in the Raghdan Palace, Amman.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and appraisal services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

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