CANDLESTICKS SELL FOR £30,000
(25 September 2005)
monumental pair of Islamic metalwork candlesticks is to go under
the hammer after being discovered in a church in Lincolnshire. Bearing
both Koranic inscription and words from a Christian hymn, these
remarkable objects bridge a gap between the Muslim and Christian
faiths - a timely reminder in today's political and religious climate
that the two religions can stand side by side. Standing 7' 7'' high
on a 75cm base, these identical silver-inlaid brass candlesticks
date from the 19th century or earlier, and probably originate from
Cairo. The extremely rare and intricately decorated candlesticks
- or lamp stands - are set to fetch around £30,000 at Bonhams'
sale of Islamic and Indian Art on 13 October at 101 New Bond Street.
This is the first time they, or any similar object, have appeared
of the world's leading experts on Islamic art and culture was astonished
and intrigued by their discovery. "It is extremely rare to
find a pair of monumental and elaborately inlaid candlesticks of
this style and size in a Middle Eastern country," says Doris
Behrens-Abouseif, Professor of Oriental and Asian Studies at the
University of London. "It's even more unusual to find them
in a redundant church in rural Lincolnshire."
story of how the candlesticks came to be there centres on Sir Hickman
Beckett Bacon (1855 - 1945), 11th Baronet of Redgrave and 12th Baronet
of Mildenhall. In 1878, "Hickey," as he was affectionately
known, donated a site for the church of St John the Divine in Gainsborough,
Lincolnshire. A bachelor, philanthropist and collector, Bacon is
best known for his collection of watercolours - which included 40
works by JMW Turner - but he also bought rugs, ceramics and textiles
during his extensive travels abroad. According to his niece Lavinia
Gibbs, who wrote a biography of her uncle, when St John the Divine
was consecrated in 1882, "a bazaar was held in the Old Hall
to raise funds and Hicky gave some brass candlesticks which he had
brought back from Cairo." After the church was decommissioned,
the candlesticks - hard to move as a result of their monumental
size - remained in the church until this year.
identically decorated candlesticks offer a truly intriguing specimen
of late Islamic metalwork, as Professor Behrens-Abouseif describes:
"the entire surface of the 236cm high cylindrical shafts is
pierced to display openwork arabesque scrolls and inscriptions of
exquisite quality. A kind of circular tray at the upper section
bears a Koranic inscription (9/51): "Say, nothing will befall
except what God has ordained for us." Another inscription on
the shaft reads: "Glory to our Lord in Heaven," the words
of a Christian hymn. The other inscriptions, which have not been
fully deciphered, seem also to include Christian glorification of
God among further Islamic references and artwork. It may be that
the candlesticks were made for a middle-eastern church, but were
based on similar objects that were made for mosques."
objects with a vase-shaped upper structure to hold a candle were
used in mosques from the mid-17th century, and models closer to
the Bonhams candlesticks in craftsmanship and decoration can be
attributed to early 18th century Damascus. Their style and the timing
of their arrival in England - no later than 1882 - suggest that
they predate the Mamluk Revival style which originated in the late
19th century in Cairo and Damascus. Appropriately, the inscriptions
use metaphors of light and Christian phrases that relate to Coptic
liturgy - the teachings of the Christian Orthodox Church in Egypt.
emergence of these incredible objects onto the market for the first
time presents collectors and enthusiasts of Islamic art with a rare
and unprecedented opportunity to acquire something truly remarkable.
The poignancy of the combination of Islamic and Christian ideals
inherent in the candlesticks' design will not be lost in today's
religious and political climate, and the quality of craftsmanship
combined with their rarity adds to their charm and value.
founded in 1793, is one of the world's oldest and largest auctioneers
of fine art and antiques. Today, Bonhams is the third largest and
fastest growing auction house in the world with a global network
of offices and regional representatives providing sales advice and
valuation services in 20 countries.