Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Angelina Jolie e Brad Pitt. Four excellent ingredients for auctioning a painting. Whose particular history makes it particularly fascinating and very expensive. The air is still, very bright, waiting. We are in Morocco, with the Mediterranean sea and a handful of states separating us from Hitler’s Germany. Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt have just met in Casablanca, in a conference that defined the plan to defeat Nazism. Now they stroll through the sand-colored buildings of Marrakech and enjoy the antechamber of the decisive battle. A moment too poetic for Churchill, an inspired painter, not to decide to dedicate to him the only work he will make during the Second World War (1939-45). An artistic result too important for Christie’s not to take the opportunity today to offer it at auction in London.
The appointment is set for March 1st, when “Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque” will be beaten during the Modern British Art Evening Sale.
The outline of the event is made even more brilliant by the unusual figure who proposed the work at auction: Angelina Jolie. The American actress is just the latest of many owners who have had the opportunity to own the painting. “An evocative, wonderful work,” Roosevelt exclaimed when Churchill presented it to him. The painting was then sold by the president’s son in 1945, after his father’s death. Since that time it has passed through several hands, before settling in the collection of Jolie and Brad Pitt in 2011. In the meantime, however, he has archived two exhibitions: the first in the New York Daily News building in 1965 and a second in 1970 at the Churchill Memorial in Fulton, Missouri.
The work, after the couple’s separation in 2016, remained the property of the Jolie Family Collection, which now designs the Historic sale: $ 2.1 million minimum estimate, $ 3.4 million maximum. Forecasts that introduce an announced record, since the best result obtained by a Churchill’s work at auction is around 2.4 million. There are approximately 500 works attributable to the great Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in total. An amateur but sensitive brush, seduced by the light from Morocco and its suspended atmosphere.
“Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque” immortalizes the city’s mosque,
dating back to the twelfth century, at sunset. In the background stands the Atlas Mountains, which stretches for about 2,500 km in Northwest Africa. The colors are light, clouded by the sun which, declining, collides with the city profiles. The shadows descend precisely like the tired eyelids of the two politicians, called to a task decided for the fate of the whole world. We imagine them strolling near the mosque, among the quiet people, unaware of what is going on in their heads. Perhaps at that moment Churchill had already decided that, once he returned to England, he would paint that scene. Nature, with its landscapes, in fact represented his greatest pictorial fascination. «Painting is great fun» he wrote, «it’s nice to admire the colors and deposit them on the canvas». A passion to be experienced outdoors, in his country house in the county of Kent or during his travels in Italy, France and Africa.