800-year-old Kaaba key sold for 9.2 million pounds

Click here: IINA – 800-year-old Kaaba key sold for 9.2 million pounds

A 800-year-old key to the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam, sold for 9.2 million pounds late yesterday, setting a new record for an Islamic work of art at auction. The 12 century Abbasid period key, made of iron and measuring 37 cm long, sold at Sotheby’s in London for more than 18 times its pre-sale estimate and was bought anonymously. Its existence was previously unknown and prompted a bidding battle that took the price to more than 18 times the £400,000-£500,000 estimate in an auction of Islamic art, whose 405 lots sold for a total of £21.5 million.

…According to the auctioneer, the tradition of dedicating the key to each caliph appears to have originated with the Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad. “As a physical object — the key to the holiest building of an entire religion — it demonstrates the authority of the caliph and is the ultimate emblem of power,” Sotheby’s said. The key was the highlight of the auctioneer’s Islamic sale, which realized 21.5 million pounds, in excess of the pre-sale high estimate of 13.1 million pounds and a new record for an Islamic art auction. “Remarkably, the sale realized more than the Islamic department’s annual total in 2007, demonstrating beyond doubt the burgeoning and international demand for Islamic Art,” said Edward Gibbs, head of Sotheby’s Islamic art department.

The previous record for a work of Islamic art sold at auction is believed to be a bronze fountainhead in the form of a hind dating from mid-10th century Spain. It sold at Christie’s in 1997 for 3.6 million pounds. On Tuesday, Christie’s held its own London Islamic sale which fetched 11.8 million pounds, including a leaf from a mid-seventh century copy of the Holy Quran sold for 2.5 million pounds versus a pre-sale estimate of 100-150,000 pounds. It was a new world auction record for an Islamic manuscript, the company said. The leaf from a 7th-century copy of the Quran on vellum, probably from Madinah has set a new world auction record for any Islamic manuscript. Christie’s said the 36-centimeter vellum leaf was one of the earliest fragments of the Quran produced. The price paid by an anonymous collector, more than 20 times the lower estimate, was the highest for an Islamic manuscript at auction, said Christie’s.

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