A HISTORIC carpet containing Bahraini pearls is set to break records when it goes to auction with a starting bid of $5 million (BD1.89m) in Qatar on Thursday. The Pearl Carpet of Baroda will form the centrepiece of Sotheby's inaugural series of sales in Doha and will be sold alongside other objects in the Arts of the Islamic World auction.
It will set a record if it sells at the price, beating the $4.45m (BD1.68m) paid for a silk Persian rug in New York, at Christie's last year.
However, it is expected to fetch up to $20m (BD7.5m) when it goes under the hammer, according to auctioneers.
It is embroidered with one and a half million Basra pearls, which were harvested in the southern Gulf region and along the coasts of Bahrain and Qatar, says Sotheby's.
It is also embellished with diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and rubies.
"Named after its patron, it was commissioned circa 1865 by Gaekwar Khande Rao, the Maharaja of Baroda; reputedly originally intended as a gift for the tomb of (Prophet) Mohammed at Medina," it said.
The intended gift was never delivered as the maharaja died before he made the donation and the carpet remained in his family.
"It is fitting that a historic object as magnificent and unique as the Pearl Carpet of Baroda is a major highlight of our inaugural series of auctions in Doha," said Sotheby's rugs and carpets worldwide director Mary Jo Otsea.
"The carpet has never appeared at auction before and the sale therefore represents an unparalleled opportunity to acquire an extraordinarily significant work of art. I am delighted that Middle Eastern collectors will be able to view this stunning work."
Exhibited in 1902 as a highlight of the Delhi Exhibition displaying the wealth of the maharajas, it was later moved to Monaco with Maharani Sita Devi, who took the carpet along with her jewellery collection when she moved to the Mediterranean.
For the first time in over 80 years, the carpet was once again showcased in the 1985 landmark exhibition India at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.