Mahmoud Saїd Masterpiece Tops Bonhams Middle Eastern Art Sale

London - Paysage a Louxor, an important work by the father of Egyptian modern art, Mahmoud Saïd (Egypt, 1897-1964), sold for £453,900 at Bonhams' Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art sale in New Bond Street on 23 November 2022. Offered directly from the artist's family, the work had been estimated at £160,000 - 200,000. The sale included the final instalment of The Baghdadiyat trilogy – a series of sales focussed on Iraqi works from prestigious private collections. All the 21 lots were sold making this section a 'white glove' sale. The sale overall made a total of £2,851,125.

Paysage a Louxor embodied Saïd's quest to find the "internal light", which "imprisons" and "possesses" the viewer. His stylised rural scenes attempted to make plain the rich history embedded in Egypt's terrain. The Nile, a river that has become a symbol of the country's lineage, is seen from one of its most ancient cities, Luxor, known for its ruins. The work was originally owned by the artist's sister then passed to the family of her husband, the Zulficars - one of 20th century Egypt's most respected houses.

Nima Sagharchi, Group Head of Middle Eastern, Islamic and South Asian Art, commented, "Paysage a Louxor is a truly remarkable and memorable work. It fully merited the exceptional sum for which it sold at the end of a long and tense bidding war. The culmination of Saïd's years of experiment with light, Paysage a Louxor is suffused with his great affection for his country and for his family to whom he gifted the work."

Other highlights from the 91-lot sale included:

Kadhim Hayder (Iraq, 1943-1985), A Love Deeper than All Love (Wa hawa aemaq min kuli hawa). Appearing on the market for this first time this seminal work was part of his Epic of the Martyr series, which focused on the Battle of Karbala and death of Imam Hussein. The piece was extremely rare and came from the prestigious private collection of one of Hayder's oldest friends, Professor Abdul Aziz Hameed. Sold for £277,500 (estimate: £100,000 - 120,000).

Jewad Selim (Iraq, 1919-1961), The Wedding Chest. A rare appearance of a Selim work at auction. In The Wedding Chest, Selim draws attention to the unjust treatment of women in society. This chimes with his practice of "folk modernism", which depicted characters from daily life in Baghdad. Sold for £353,100 (estimate: £70,000-100,000).

Adam Henein (Egypt, 1929-2020), Om Kalthoum. A tribute to the greatest female singer in Arab music history, Umm Kulthum, in the form of a sculpture. Sold for £189,300 (estimate: £70,000-100,000).

Hamed Nada (Egypt, 1924-1990), The Unruly Horse. An integral member of Hussein Youssef Amin's Contemporary Art Group, Nada took inspiration from the children's drawings he saw while teaching at a primary school and the Egyptian pioneer artists who revived pharaonic art. After the 1970s, more serious themes were set aside in favour of the fantastic, which gave rise to works like The Unruly Horse, replete with movement and rhythm. Sold for £126,300 (Estimate: £50,000-80,000).


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