Landmark Work by Mahmoud Said Is Jewel in the Crown of Major Arab and Iranian Art Sale

  • LONDON, United Kingdom
  • /
  • September 28, 2016

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Mahmoud Said (Egypt, 1897-1964) L'île Heureuse

  •        Artistic gems from across the Middle East brought to London for an exceptional auction of modern and contemporary art
  •        Work by trailblazing Egyptian artist, Mahmoud Said, comes to auction for the first time
  •       All eyes on Bonhams as Part II of the record-breaking ‘Art of the Lebanon’ auction brings Lebanese masters to the market


Mahmoud Said’s landmark work, L’ile Heureuse, leads Bonhams Lebanese and Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art sale on Wednesday 12th October. The iconic painting is estimated at £200,000-300,000, the highlight in a comprehensive sale of 20th Century Arab and Iranian Art.

Amongst the most important examples of Modern Egyptian Art ever to come to auction, Mahmoud Said’s L’ile Heureuse, or Happy Isle (1927) has been called a cultural landmark. The upcoming sale will be the first time it comes to the market.

Mahmoud Said (1897-1964) is celebrated as the doyen of Egyptian art, particularly noted for his depiction of Egyptian life in the years preceding the 1952 Revolution. Painted at an important turning point in his career, it was this work that established the artist’s signature style – the stylized depiction of traditional Egyptian life.

Presented as a gift from the artist to his close friend Jean Nicolaides in the 1930s, the work was then lost for nearly half a century as it passed by descent through the Nicolaides family. Taken from Alexandria to Athens during the Greek exodus from Egypt in the 1960s, the painting was exhibited at institutions including the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Alexandria, leaving an indelible mark on the Egyptian art scene.

Nima Sagharchi, Bonhams Head of the Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art Department said, “Discovering an historically important work of such illustrious provenance is near incredible, especially considering the increasingly open and accessible market. The fact that our catalogue will be the first chance for collectors to appreciate the work in colour underscores the significance of this discovery.”



Other cultural figureheads from across the region represented at Bonhams forthcoming Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art sale include:

Charles Hossein Zenderoudi (Iran, b. 1937), the father of Iran’s neo-traditionalist movement, is celebrated for his modern take on traditional calligraphy. His TCHAH TCHAHE JIME is a large and exquisite example of his work from the early 1980s, estimated at £110,000-160,000.

Shakir Hassan Al Said (Iraq, 1925-2004) is the most important figure in Iraqi modernism. Over twenty lots from his family’s private collection – representing all major phases of the artist’s career – are up for auction. Bonhams set the world record for sale of the artist’s work last year with his Cubist Cockerell selling for £194,000.

Marwan Kassab-Bachi (Syria, b. 1939), known simply as “Marwan”, is one of the most lauded living Arab artists. His expressionist work Kopf (2007) is estimated at £70,000-£100,000.



Following on from Bonhams record-breaking ‘Art of Lebanon, Part I’ auction in April this year, ‘Art of Lebanon, Part II’ will feature the work of eminent artists, including Khalil Gibran and Khalil Zgheib.

In April, Bonhams set a record price of £182,000 for the sale of a Kahlil Gibran (Lebanon, 1883-1931) portrait. Another portrait by the same artist is up for sale in the upcoming auction. Taken from the estate of Alexander Morten, Unfinished Portrait of a Lady is estimated at £20,000-30,000. The portrait depicts the sister of Gibran’s friend, patron and some say lover, Mary Haskell.

Called the “Lebanese Breugel”, Khalil Zgheib (Lebanon, 1911-1975) is the definitive painter of the Lebanese countryside. A work of the size and quality of his Bedouins Recreation (c.1950), estimated at £90,000-140,000, has never before been seen at auction.

Nima Sagharchi, Bonhams Head of Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern art said, “We seldom find that a sale is as well-rounded as this, representing as it does, such a comprehensive account of 20th Century Arab and Iranian Art. Included in the sale are some of the rarest and most significant examples of Middle Eastern art available in the market today”


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