Christie's to offer the collection of the late Oliver Hoare

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Christie's to offer the collection of the late Oliver Hoare
Pomander in the shape of a skull, which is reputed to have been in the possession of King James II. Estimate: £12,000-18,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.

LONDON.- On October 25th, Christie’s will present the collection of the late Oliver Hoare (1945-2018). A highly influential and much loved art dealer who specialised in Islamic art, Oliver inaugurated Islamic sales at Christie’s in 1975 when working for the auction house. Known for celebrating the remarkable stories of objects from across countless countries and eras, and the joy and intrigue that they could bring, Oliver assembled a collection of works of art for his exhibitions under the banner ‘Every Object Tells a Story’ where a number of these pieces were shown. Comprising approximately 130 lots, the sale will include works of art from all over the globe, ancient and modern, with individual estimates from £300 to over £1.5 million.

Led by works from the Islamic world, the top lot is an exceptional 15th century Timurid manuscript – known as the Jam-I Jam – by Mawlana Shir Ali, with four illustrations by the celebrated and extremely rare artist [Kemal al-Din] Bihzad, which was once part of the Mughal Imperial Library; it is the earliest known work by the artist, produced with the calligrapher with whom he worked again on a manuscript now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (estimate: £1-1.5 million). Equally characteristic of the collector’s eye is an arresting 17th century silver apple with bite marks; it opens to reveal a pomander in the shape of a skull, which is reputed to have been in the possession of King James II (estimate: £12,000-18,000). It was sold at Christie’s in 1855 as part of the Bernal Collection.

William Robinson, Christie’s International Head of Group, World Art: “As head of the Islamic Department, I for many years enjoyed filling the position which was first created for Oliver. It therefore gives me huge pleasure that Christie’s have been asked to handle the Oliver Hoare sale, his family actively wanting to encourage new collectors, and with them, new stories to be told. Oliver was such an enthusiast for each individual work, the story it can tell, that it came alive when he discussed it.
Our aim is to recreate the spirit of Oliver: both the relaxed gallery ambience, with an encouragement of dialogue, and by conveying the simple wonder of arcane, intriguing and simply beautiful works of art.”

Oliver’s children, Tristan, Damian and Olivia: “Our father’s interest in Islamic art can be traced back to his childhood when he was gifted a large silver coin from Persia; from that moment, it became a place of mystery and fascination to which he longed to go. That opportunity would only come after he became a student in Paris, from where he set off overland by train and then bus, taking more than a week to reach Tehran. He had a total fascination with all objects; both the modest and the masterpiece, and from across cultures - he loved their stories, their beauty and the potential to learn from them. This last point was perhaps the most important for him and the reason he never considered himself the owner of any object, his intention always being to learn what he could and then pass it on. It is in this spirit that the family are happy to offer this collection in the hope that others will be able to enjoy, learn and delight in these objects, just as he did.”

The collection also features a Mille-Fleurs Unicorn Tapestry, a masterpiece of the Middle Ages created in Flanders between 1500 and 1530 (estimate: £120,000-180,000). This tapestry is from the suite of tapestries known as the ‘Lady and the Unicorn’; a series of seven such mille-fleurs tapestries in the Cloisters, Metropolitan Museum New York, also display the initials AE and are also from the La Rochefoucault family, as the present example is believed to be. Traditionally the Unicorn was a symbol of feminine chastity and the cult of the Virgin Mary and this tapestry shows an elegant, richly attired Lady seated with a Unicorn resting his head in her lap, with another Lady and a young man to her right.

A l'Heure de l'observatoire – les amoureux (Observatory Time – the Lovers) is one of Man Ray’s most celebrated images (estimate: £30,000-50,000). This lithograph, one of only two known colour trial proofs before the edition of 150, is based on the painting of the same name which was executed from 1932-34. Depicting the lips of the photographer Lee Miller, floating in a sky above the Paris observatory, the painting was made in response to the ending of their relationship in 1932, and has become an icon of surrealism.

The source of the fascinating design for an unusual Silk Heraldic Animal Rug, possibly
Kashan, Central Persia, circa 1910, remains somewhat of a mystery (estimate £15,000 - 25,000). A highly unusual composition comprising ninety-eight figures of heraldic, realistic and abstract form that are rich in moralistic and religious iconography.

Elsewhere in the sale, the diverse array of further highlights offered continues, including: a Maghribi Qur'an bifolium, Andalusia, circa 11th -13th century (estimate: £40,000-60,000); a unique gelatin silver print photograph by François-Marie Banier (b. 1947) depicting a table at Oliver Hoare’s office with many of his favourite objects at the time, entitled Untitled, 2011 (estimate : £20,000-30,000); a giant marble foot that is reminiscent of the ancient foot of the Colossus of Constantine and the enormous Roman foot in the Piè di Marmo in Rome, which was probably created at the behest of a Grand Tourist to the Eternal City dreaming of recreating its artistic glories in their own home (estimate: £15,000-25,000); an elegant, gilt-lacquered stucco figure of a Lama (estimate: £4,000-6,000) and a monumental George III library desk exhibiting exquisite craftmanship and dating to the days of ‘a gentleman with a library’ (estimate: £10,000-15,000). It has aristocratic provenance, having been formerly the property of the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres.

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