Dikran Kelekian

Known as the "dean of antiquities" Dikran Kelekian, the son of an Armenian banker, entered the antique business in Istanbul in 1892. He was widely renowned for his expertise in Islamic, and particularly Persian pottery, and was actively involved in the sale of medieval Islamic ceramics following the finds in Rayy in the late 1880s - early 1890s, as well as the excavations begun in Raqqa in 1896 and Sultanabad and Varamin in 1905.

In 1900, Kelekian apparently served as a member of the jury for the Universal Exposition in Paris, and in 1903 he lent a number of his works to the Exposition of Muslim Arts at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, which was also in Paris. The following year, he participated in the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, mounting a large display of his wares and accompanying the display with an illustrated catalogue. Already by this time Kelekian seems to have been recognized by the shah of Iran for his efforts to promote Persian art and culture, and he had added the honorific title of Khan between his first and last names. Eventually, Kelekian became an American citizen, adding another country of allegiance to those of his heritage (Armenia), his birth (Turkey), and his professional interest and recognition (Iran).

One author sketched his character like so: "He is a creature so curiously compounded that, under his grim and sometimes awesome visage, he combines, in one person, the qualities of a Persian satrap and a properly accredited archangel, of Genghis Khan and the Chevalier Bayard, of Thor, the God of Thunder and Saint Francis of Assisi."

Among the most celebrated in his collection is the Egyptian bowl of the Fatimid dynasty (969-1171), reputedly found in Luxor, which depicts a Coptic monk holding a large lamp (bottom left illustration). To his right, there is an ankh, the Egyptian hieroglyphic sign for life, a symbol appropriated by the Copts. This bowl is the only complete work of its type with a Christian subject. Another major work in the collection is the early thirteenth-century dish with a polo on a piebald horse, dated 1207 which is decorated with verses of love poetry in Persian that bear no relation to the subject of the painting. Executed in the area of Kashan, Persia, renowned for its elaborately patterned tiles, this dish epitomises the high quality of Kelekian collection.