A flywhisk of the King Farouk of Egypt




Ottoman Empire


19th century


Casting, forging, carving, enameling, gem-setting


Silver, gold, diamonds, enamels, horsehair


Length 220 mm

The silver flywhisk consists of a holder and a tulip-shaped long cup into which a strand of horsehair was inserted. The holder is formed by three different-shaped sections. Three connecting jumpers between sections are covered with transparent red enamel. The cup and upper section of the holder are covered with opaque blue enamel and are applied with silver flower heads, leaves and scrolls set with numerous diamonds of different shapes and sizes. Some decorative elements are gilded or encased in gold foil. The remaining two sections of the holder are entirely studded with small diamonds.

COMMENT. This unusual object is a flywhisk, which is a common means in the East to drive way annoying insects. In this case, we are talking not only about a very useful everyday item, but also about an outstanding piece of jewelry, as well as probably a peculiar sign of dignity and power. Judging by some decor features, the presented flywhisk was made by one of the court jewelers in Istanbul. It reflects the strong influence of the European rococo style, which is one of the characteristics of Ottoman jewelry art in the second half of the 18th and first half of the 19th century. The first recorded owner of the flywhisk was Farouk I, the tenth ruler of Egypt from the Muhammad Ali Dynasty and the penultimate king of Egypt and Sudan (r. 1936-52). King Farouk I became legendary for his extravagance and lavish lifestyle. At the same time, he loved art and amassed a huge personal collection, which considered at the time unrivalled for the variety, number and quality of objects. Farouk I kept all these treasures in the Koubbeh Palace in Cairo, which was in fact turned into his private residence. After the Egyptian revolution of 1952, the King Farouk I collection became the property of the Republic of Egypt, and already in 1953 the new government decided to put it up for sale and attracted three London auction houses including Sotheby’s. Since the collection was very large and spanned a wide range of collecting categories, five separate volumes of the auction catalogue were published. The name of the former owner was not mentioned anywhere. The flywhisk was included as lot 870 into the third auction sale titled "The Palace Collections of Egypt", which was held by Sotheby’s in the Kubbeh Palace on March 10-17, 1954. This object was once again sold at Sotheby’s in St. Moritz on February 20, 2007. Another ornate flywhisk from the former Farouk I collection was auctioned at Sotheby’s in Geneva on November 14, 2007 (see Sotheby’s: Magnificent Jewels, Evening Sale: Geneva, Wednesday 14 November 2007: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2007. – Lot 322).

LITERATURE: 1) Sotheby's: The Palace Collections of Egypt: Catalogue of the Highly Important Collection of Works of Art in Precious Materials, the Property of the Republic of Egypt, and Now Sold by Order of the Government, which will be Sold by an Auctioneer Appointed by the Egyptian Government at Koubbeh Palace, Cairo, on Wednesday, 10th March, 1954, and Following Three Days, and on Wednesday, 17th March, 1954, and Following Three Days: [Auction Catalogue]. – London: Sotheby & Co., 1954. – Lot 870, pl. 50; 2) Sotheby's: Magnificent Jewels: St. Moritz, 20 February 2007: [Auction catalogue]. – London, 2007. – Lot 185.