a painting in the Orientalist style, an occasional table bearing ceremonial curved swords and another with ornate flintlock pistols. A pair of wooden doors faced in iron with ornamental nails stand propped up against a post; escapees from a Syrian palace. Pairs of elephant tusks surmount a chest of drawers inlaid with mother of pearl and camel bone.
On show until 16 May, the collection from Antique Khan in Damascus has been brought to Dubai by owner Najla Salma and her sister Rana. But the pieces are not just for display, they are also for sale.
"I love antiques," says Najla, and I wanted to try to be international and make other people see the beauty of antiques; to bring them from Damascus and show the world.
Originally I studied architecture in Damascus and then illustration in London for two years specialising in 17th and 18th century English styles. I started selling 5 years ago but then it was very difficult for a small lady starting this way because it was a very new thing to do this. Now we have this very nice collection of Islamic art here in Dubai with pieces from Europe, Syria, Turkey and Egypt.
A few ceramic bowls from Syria date back as far as the 16th century with later works that take the range through to the 20th century. Acquired from collectors and houses, the collection incorporates everything from jewellery to furniture, glassware to bronzes, arms to paintings. Najla, Rana and their assistant Mohammed are obviously knowledgeable about the objects on display but there are a few anomalies to explain.
"The screw is 200 years old but the actual bronze is 100 years old," Mohammed explains curiously, referring to the attachment of hat to statue. The lock is new on the doors because they were still in use when we got them.
Modifications are bound to occur during the lifetime of some items due to their use and accidents do happen. One of a pair of tusks has accidentally fallen from the chest of drawers resulting in a broken tip; some negotiation there perhaps. But there are also items here that are complete sets and therefore command a higher price.
A set of Bohemian glassware fashioned for the Syrian market comprises a pair of oil lamps, two vases and complementing bowls with knobbed lids. Although unboxed, the brace of engraved pistols, perhaps a gift to a potentate or used for duelling, is an undoubted find for the collector.
"I explain all the details about the items, the background and I talk to people about antiques generally," says Najla. It ís our job to be honest with the collectors. We usually have the name of the original owner, can give the dates, the cultural background, everything and we give the buyer a certificate. We also have free delivery anywhere in the world.
Antique Khan will take cash or cheque in payment for the antiques priced in US dollars.
"It is a smaller number but a bigger sum," says Najla with a grin.
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