Who knew that Angelina Jolie is a fine art collector? The actress, director, and humanitarian activist has just sold a painting at auction from her collection for a record $11.5 million USD, reported CNN, and it comes steeped with a weighty history — which no doubt jacked up the bidding wars on the priceless piece.
The artwork, Tower of Koutoubia Mosque, was painted in 1943 by Winston Churchill. Yes, that Churchill: the Former Prime Minister of the UK during World War II, and is credited with helping lead the Allied armies against Nazi fascism. It is the only painting Churchill did during the war — obviously, he was usually too busy to paint — and depicts a serene desert mosque in Marrakech, Morocco. Churchill visited Morocco several times, and "he fell in love with the quality of light there," said Christie London's British modern art head Nick Orchard to CNN. "He felt that his paintings of the country were among his best."
This particular painting was inspired by Churchill's wartime trip to Morocco in January 1943. Allied leaders, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, were in attendance to chart out military strategy plans. Roosevelt and Churchill took a short trip to Marrakech together; it became the inspiration point for this painting. After the war, Churchill gifted the piece to Roosevelt.
"The painting depicts the very moment the two world leaders shared as they viewed the majestic landscape of Marrakech as the sun set over the Atlas Mountains, and to know Churchill gifted the painting to FDR after their time together excited me even more," Bill Rau, an antiques dealer, told CNN.
Clearly, such an illustrious backstory added to the painting's final auction bid. It is the most expensive Churchill piece ever sold and more than tripled its estimated $2.5 million pre-auction estimate, and while it is leaving the Jolie household, its history endures.