This folio (pictured above) and the other Indian and Persian miniatures in the sale were all acquired by Freddie Mercury within the last six months of his life. It is possible that his illness may have brought about a contemplation of his ancestry. Mercury’s family belonged to the Parsi community who originated from Bulsar in Western India and followed the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism.
Mercury was born in Zanzibar but spent most of his childhood in India, sent away to boarding school in Bombay, where he showed a keen interest in music and art from an early age. Mercury could have possibly identified with the young Persian prince depicted here in this Indian miniature.
This is how Sotheby’s characterises one of the many striking treasures among the 1,400 items now open for a free display at the auction house in London as a rare insight into the hidden world of the celebrated British singer-songwriter Freddie Mercury – born Farrokh Bulsara and schooled in Maharashtra. The folio is from a dispersed royal Mughal copy of the ‘Akbarnama’ (Book of Akbar), which is believed to have been commissioned by Emperor Akbar’s mother Hamida Banu Begum and dates back to around circa 1595-1600.
David Macdonald, Head of Single Owner Sales, Sotheby’s London, said: “This summer, Sotheby’s is throwing open the doors to Freddie Mercury’s London home, in what will be a true celebration of his wonderful life.
“His sense of joie de vivre and generous spirit is a thread that runs through the entire collection, which takes us on a journey through his life – from his school days, to college, the fledgling years of his career, and of course his greatest stage moments.”
The lead vocalist of the band Queen, who died in November 1991 aged 45, was an avid collector and his cherished London home – Garden Lodge – was preserved almost as it was by his closest friend Mary Austin.
Now, all of Sotheby’s 16,000 square foot gallery space in London’s New Bond Street has been given over to the vast array of costumes, hand-written lyrics, drawings, furniture, and decorative and fine art for the world to admire and later acquire at an auction next month.
Some of the items displayed in all 15 of Sotheby’s galleries are familiar from the celebrated artist’s greatest stage performances, including the red cape and crown he wore on his very final stage appearance with Queen in 1986. But many of the items in the collection have never been seen by anyone other than Mercury’s closest circle of friends.
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