Christie’s evening sale of Modern British art on March 1 offered the only painting Churchill (1874-1965) completed during the Second World War. Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque was painted following the Casablanca Conference in January 1943. The British prime minister gave it to US President Franklin D Roosevelt ‘as a memento of this short interlude in the crash of war’.
Having remained with Roosevelt’s son Elliot until 1950 and changed hands once since, it was bought by actor Brad Pitt in 2011 from New Orleans dealership MS Rau and given to his then-partner, the actress Angelina Jolie.
Christie’s said the work was offered from the Jolie family collection.
Churchill described his views of Marrakech “a cut above anything I have ever done so far” and this 18in x 2ft (46 x 61cm) oil of the Moroccan city with the Atlas mountains in the distance was deemed one of his better efforts.
Even so, few could have predicted the price it would make.
Christie’s pitched it at £1.5m-2.5m. At the sale, it took nine minutes to sell as multiple bidders competed for the lot. It was eventually knocked down at £7m to a phone buyer believed to be from Belgium.
The same bidder also secured two further Churchill works at the same sale: Scene at Marrakech, painted as a gift for Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery Montgomery for £1.55m, and St Paul’s Churchyard which sold at £880,000. They were both underbid online from the US.
Before this sale, the highest price at auction for a Churchill painting was the £1.5m bid for The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell from 1932 which sold at Sotheby’s in 2014, a work offered from the estate of his youngest child, the late Mary Soames.