CANVASES, CARATS AND CURIOSITIES

Record-Breaking Churchill Sale

 

The Tower of Koutoubia Mosque by Sir Winston Churchill, painted January 1943

 

 

Why buy from M.S. Rau?

 

M.S. Rau consistently searches the globe for objects of rarity and importance, and our goal is always to find the "best of the best." An exciting event occurred this week that validates our ongoing mission to seek out the very finest.

 


In 2011, we uncovered a painting by the great Sir Winston Churchill that had spent the previous couple of decades hidden in a closet. While doing our research, we discovered that this was not only unlike any other painting by the great man, it was also part of world history. We, of course, acquired the work and sold it shortly after for a little north of two million dollars to the actor Brad Pitt, who later gifted it to his then-girlfriend, Angelina Jolie. This exact painting came up for auction at Christie's London this past Monday, where it sold for almost twelve million dollars, quadrupling the previous record for a Churchill sold at auction and delivering to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie an increase in its value of over 5.5 times in a little under ten years.

 


At M.S. Rau, we have long held the belief that when one owns the very best, it is among the most sound investments one can make. This painting's extraordinary story and recent sale confirms our long-term vision.

 


The painting itself is Churchill's masterpiece, created in January of 1943, to commemorate his and President Franklin Roosevelt's trip to Marrakech after the Casablanca Conference. Churchill completed approximately one-third of his paintings before WWII and roughly two-thirds after, but The Tower of Koutoubia Mosque is the only artwork he composed during the war. It was painted during perhaps what was the most pivotal moment for Churchill, as the first three years of the war had been a series of both bad and horrible news for the English. However, by the beginning of 1943, when this work was completed, good news was still far away but it was finally on the horizon.

 


In January of 1943, Churchill met FDR at the Casablanca Conference to plan the Allies' strategy in the European theater. Churchill had previously fallen in love with Morocco, and the city of Marrakech in particular, during his first visit to the region in 1935. After the conference came to a close, Churchill persuaded the FDR to share the area's breathtaking scenery for one evening. The pair took the five-hour drive to Marrakech with cheering American soldiers lining the highway for the majority of the way. Upon arrival, Churchill insisted that Roosevelt accompany him to a tower outside of the walled city to view the sunset over the Atlas Mountains. The President's assistants carried him up the stairs by making a chair with their arms, and the pair of world leaders then smoked, drank scotch and sang songs until the early hours of the morning.

 


Later that morning, after the President's plane took off for the states, Churchill turned to his aid and said, "Bring me my paints." He then returned to the same tower and painted the view he had enjoyed with FDR the night before. He then sent this painting to Roosevelt as a birthday present, giving the work the unique distinction of being created and presented by one of the most important figures of the 20th century to another.

 


While not every object we buy was handmade by a famed Prime Minister and given to an important wartime U.S. President, we do pride ourselves on possessing objects that are the finest examples of their genres. The Tower of Koutoubia Mosque demonstrates this commitment especially well, as it has the very best of everything we seek — great research, profound artistic vision, historical significance and distinguished provenance — adding up to create a work of art with incredible staying power and worth. We are proud to see the market agreeing with our long-term philosophy that acquiring objects of exceptional beauty, history and rarity is a wise choice, and it validates our mission to seek out the best for our clients. This is the M.S. Rau difference.

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