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Architectural Digest

Angelina Jolie Sells Winston Churchill Painting for Staggering $11.5 Million Sum


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Winston Churchill’s work as an amateur painter of hundreds of works is well documented. But during World War II, the British prime minister competed only one painting—a canvas he notably gifted to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Now, that same work, has sold for a staggering sum of $11.5 million at Christie’s. And as twists and turns of fate would have it, the seller is none other than Angelina Jolie. 


The story of the painting can, however, be traced all the way back to 1935, when Churchill first visited Morocco and became enchanted by its light. Flash forward to 1943, and Churchill persuaded Roosevelt to travel with him from the Casablanca Conference to the city of Marrakech. The next day, after the American president had left, Churchill captured a vista that the two leaders viewed together. The significance of the Casablanca Conference is notable, as Allied leaders demanded unconditional surrender from the Axis powers soon after.

The painting, which is titled Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque, was reportedly gifted to Jolie by her husband, Brad Pitt. The final figure fetched far exceeded the lot’s estimate of $3.5 million, and was reached after a dramatic nine-minute bidding battle among 10 interested parties. 


Bill Rau, of New Orleans’s antiques dealership M.S. Rau, who had sold the painting to Pitt, connected with AD before the sale to discuss the work’s post–World War II provenance. “It is always amazing when you come across a stunning work like this that also has a historical significance,” he says. “We were first notified about this spectacular oil on canvas by Winston Churchill by a local dealer. Apparently, the owner had inherited it when her stepfather passed. It had been hidden away in her stepfather’s closet for nearly 50 years without anyone knowing what a treasure they had sequestered in their home.”


Rau, reached by AD not long after news of yesterday’s record-breaking sale was made, adds, “When we sold the Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque by Winston Churchill it was valued at just under $3 million. We felt that was a fair price for such a historic work. The fact that it sold at auction for over $11.5 million just goes to show you that important pieces will continue to be coveted and fetch top dollar. When you add in the painting’s unprecedented journey, it really becomes priceless. We are thrilled to have been a part of that.”


Interestingly, two additional Churchill pieces were included in the Christie’s auction. Both exceeded their initial estimates as well. Perhaps then, Winston Churchill could be considered one of the hot new names on the art market.


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