Sotheby’s London to auction two sculptures by Egyptian modern art pioneer Mahmoud Mokhtar

Ati Metwaly , Tuesday 9 Mar 2021

Ibn Al-Balad and Arous Al-Nil will be offered at Sotheby's online auction at the end of March

Mahmoud Mokhtar
Ibn El Balad [L] and Arous El Nil [R] (Photos: courtesy of Sotheby's London)

Sotheby’s London revealed that it will be auctioning off two works by Egyptian sculptor and modern art pioneer Mahmoud Mokhtar.

The sculptures, ‘Ibn Al-Balad’ and ‘Arous Al-Nil’, will participate in the upcoming ‘20th Century Art / Middle East’ auction which will open for bidding online from 23 to 30 March.

Ibn Al-Balad was one of the very first works that Mokhtar created, since it was the artist’s graduation project in 1910. Its estimated price is around GBP 90,000 - 110,000.

Arous Al-Nil, which was sculpted in 1929, is a Pharaonic head of a woman, a marriage between Ancient Egyptian aesthetics and Art Deco. The work presented at the auction is a bronze bust of a full-length sculpture in the collection of Paris’ Musée du Jeu de Paume. Arous Al-Nil has an estimate value of GBP 120,000 - 180,000. 

Neither works were seen in public before, and they are now making their auction debut. 

Ibn Al-Balad and Arous Al-Nil were given on sale by Hafez Afifi Pacha, an Egyptian politician and delegate to the United Nations, whose family purchased them directly from the artist.

This is not the first time that Mokhtar’s works are sold at auction, and throughout the years, a number of Mokhtar’s sculptures debuted or were re-auctioned at Sotheby’s London.

One of the most prominent sale examples is the sculpture ‘On the Banks of the Nile’, which sold in 2015 for GBP 725,000.

A year later, another work carrying the same name was offered on sale with an estimated of GBP 30,000 - 40,000 but sold for GBP 317,000, becoming the star piece of the auction.

Created in 1921, the sculpture represents an Egyptian peasant woman, the emblem of Egypt’s nationalist movement, who stands tall, poised to adjust her veil, revealing her feminine beauty whilst carrying out the menial but essential task of sourcing water from the Nile.

In April 2019, Mokhtar’s ‘Three Beggars’ was put on sale during Sotheby’s Orientalist and Middle Eastern Art Week. The sculpture was Mokhtar’s gift to his teacher, Jules-Félix Coutan, in the 1930s. It was sold for GBP 150,000 versus an estimate of GBP 80,000 - 120,000.

“The 20th Century Art / Middle East sale (20–30 March) will feature an exciting selection of works from the most sought-after artists from the modern era to the contemporary period. We are delighted to present a carefully selected and diverse offering of masterworks from the region, including works by celebrated Iranian Masters, dynamic and exciting artists from the Arab world, as well as powerful artistic voices from North Africa,” reads the Sotheby’s London website.

Mahmoud Mokhtar
(Photos: courtesy of Sotheby's London)

Born on 10 May 1891, Mokhtar grew up in a small village near Mahalla, where his father served as the omda or mayor. He moved to Cairo to pursue artistic studies and was among the first to study sculpting at Cairo University’s fine arts faculty.

He later continued his academic work, supported by Prince Kamal Youssef, at Paris’ Ecole des Beaux Arts.

Mokhtar went on to become one of contemporary Egypt’s most celebrated sculptors. In 1962, the culture ministry opened a museum in Cairo bearing his name and displaying many of his works.

Among Mokhtar’s iconic works are a statue of Egyptian nationalist Saad Zaghloul and an image from the Egyptian revolution; the first located in front of Cairo’s Qasr Al-Nil Bridge and the second in the coastal city of Alexandria. 

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