Islamic treasure fetches 1,000 times estimate in sale
LONDON (Reuters) - A rare 11th century rock crystal ewer, misidentified as a 19th Century French claret jug, has sold for 220,000 pounds at auction, more than one thousand times its pre-sale estimate, the Art Newspaper said on Monday.
Experts believe the artefact's real value could be nearer five million pounds, according to the report.
The ewer was sold last Thursday at an auction held by Lawrences Auctioneers of Crewkerne, Somerset.
Lot 424 is catalogued as: "A French claret jug: The rock crystal body carved with animals, the silver gilt mounts with enamelled decoration, 19th century, 30 cm. (cracked and damaged). In fitted box of Morel a Sevres. 100-200 pounds".
But experts believe it is a rock crystal ewer from the Fatimid dynasty which ruled parts of northern Africa and the Middle East in the 10th-12th centuries.
Only five examples were previously known to have existed.
"This is the first time one has ever known to have appeared at auction," the publication said on its Web site (www.theartnewspaper.com). "The last one to surface on the market was purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1862."
One dealer, who described the crystal ewer as a "Holy Grail" of Islamic art, recounted how he had looked at the item but failed to identify the ewer from the auctioneer's online catalogue.
Historians have chronicled how many ewers and other rock crystal artefacts were destroyed in the 12th century, ensuring their rarity.
The Art Newspaper did not say who had valued the ewer at up to five million pounds, but a far smaller vessel from a similar period fetched 558,100 pounds at a Sotheby's auction in October, more than ten times its pre-sale estimate.
Art Newspaper said that apart from the ewer bought by the Victoria and Albert Museum, the others remain in ecclesiastical collections. Another was dropped by an employee of the Museo degli Argenti in Florence in 1998 and shattered irreparably.
More information regarding this specific Fatimid period can be found here: