June 14, 2019
Christie’s “Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence” imminent auction of Indian jewelry, paintings, arms and objects is perhaps one of the most majestic collections to come on the market in decades. Word of advice to all luxury executives interested in bygone craftsmanship as an inspirational source for future endeavors: go and take a look at the 400 lots at Christie’s New York June 14-18 before they disperse around the world on auction day June 19.
The collection – about 6 percent of the 6,000-odd royal objects belonging to the Qatari ruling family’s foundation – encompasses jewelry, gems, necklaces, swords, daggers, turban ornaments, brooches, watches, rings, pendants, earrings, miniature paintings and assorted decorative objects spanning 500 years. India’s Mughal emperors, maharajas and nawabs commissioned the objects from local artisans and European maisons such as Cartier.
“This is so much bigger, so much better, than anything we’ve put together,” said William Robinson, international head of group for world art at Christie’s, London. “All this together is a complete one-off.”
In addition to objects belonging to Mughal emperors Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb and Akbar Shah II, there are scores of pieces produced for the Nizams of Hyderabad, Tipu Sultan of Mysore, nawab of Arcot, maharana of Udaipur (Mewar) and maharajas of Baroda, Indore, Patiala, Kapurthala, Nawanagar and Idar.
The gems comprise diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires along with pearls and jade, all encased in platinum, gold or silver.
Cut above the rest
The Qatari royal family along with Kuwait’s Al-Sabah ruling clan are the biggest collectors of Indian imperial and royal jewelry, between them amassing collections worth in the billions of dollars. The two families also exhibit their collections worldwide in some of the most prestigious museums.
The decommissioning of the objects from the Al-Thani Collection is intended to enable the Qatari royal family to fund the next exhibition project they have in the works.
“It’s also to fund future philanthropic and museum projects,” said Rahul Kadakia, New York-based international head of jewelry at Christie’s.
Mr. Kadakia is spearheading this auction, along with Mr. Robinson. Marissa Wilcox, global marketing director at Christie's, was the brains behind the exhibition's vision as it traveled worldwide.
The collection has almost 200 pieces offered without reserve. Estimates for the auction items range from $10,000 to $10 million.
Christie’s 2011 auction of actress Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry was the last time a collection of comparable quality was up for sale. That sale fetched almost $116 million.
“We hope this will surpass that,” Mr. Robinson said.
Video: Overview of Christie's Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence auction