A painting of Marrakesh by Britain’s famed wartime prime minister Winston Churchill, owned by Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, smashed expectations to sell for 7 million pounds (US$9.75 million) at auction in London on Monday.
Churchill, a keen artist, took inspiration from the Moroccan city and painted “The Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque” oil work during a World War II visit in 1943.
He gave the finished article to fellow wartime leader, US President Franklin Roosevelt. Auction house Christie’s called the painting “Churchill’s most important work.”
“Aside from its distinguished provenance, it is the only landscape he made” during the war.
After frenzied bidding, much of it carried out over the phone, the gavel eventually came down at 7 million pounds, smashing the pre-sale expectations of 1.5 to 2.5 million pounds.
Christie’s said the sale figure with commission was 8.2 million pounds.
Two more of his paintings also went under the hammer. The three works together fetched 43 million pounds.
A career army officer before entering politics, Churchill started to paint 40. His passion for the translucent light of Marrakesh, far from the political storms and drab skies of London, dates to the 1930s when most of Morocco was a French protectorate.
He made six visits to the North African country over 23 years.
“Here in these spacious palm groves rising from the desert the traveller can be sure of perennial sunshine ... and can contemplate with ceaseless satisfaction the stately and snow-clad panorama of the Atlas Mountains,” he wrote.