Major Mahmoud Said Painting at Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art Sale
Mahmoud Said (Egypt, 1897-1964) La Mise Au Tombeau (The Entombment)

London - An exceptional oil painting by Egyptian artist Mahmoud Said (Egypt, 1897-1964), described as "one of his most striking paintings" by the artists' catalogue raisoneé, will lead the Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art sale. Estimated at £350,000 - £500,000, La Mise Au Tombeau marks a turning point in the development of what is now recognised as Said's signature style. It has never before appeared at auction and represents one of the few instances where a narrative scene has entered the market.

Noor Soussi, Head of Sale, remarks "The painting is particularly fascinating, as it demonstrates how Said started to take risks, finding his identity as an artist. He grew tired of the staid conventions of academic portraiture and landscapes and sought to capture more intimate scenes from Egyptian everyday life." His first work with a religious subject matter, it signals Said's gaze shifting to his immediate surroundings, his home nation. It contributes to a robust history of Egyptian funerary art, yet the specific choice of an entombment references the death of Christ, central to a Western canon populated by Flemish Primitive painters and Tintoretto. In appropriating this narrative, he elevates the plight of the ordinary civilians to that of the holy and the heroic.

La Mise Au Tombeaus significance is shown in its provenance. It belonged to the daughter of the artist and was exhibited twice in major retrospectives while on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts in Alexandria.

Other highlights include:

Gaza by Omar El Nagdi (Egypt, 1931-2019). Another striking lot is Gaza, a nine-metre quadtych, Omar El Nagdi's commemoration of the 2009 Gaza War. This clash between Israeli Defence Forces and the Gaza Strip Palestinian paramilitary groups concluded with heavy losses on the Palestinian side, a tragedy which provoked the Egyptian artist to give visual language to the Palestinian persecution and the brutalities exacted by their oppressors. Figures are distorted and splintered, divorced from their humanity as pain suffuses their faces. Nagdi's embrace of art as a means of activism, his rendering of the trauma of the war, follows the example of twentieth-century masters Goya and Picasso. Estimate £250,000 - £450,000.

Croisé B by Mohamed Melehi (Morocco, 1936-2020). Mohamed Melehi's monumental diptych Croisé B, previously shown at the artist's landmark exhibition in the Bronx Museum in 1984, is similarly ground-breaking. With his hypnotising wave canvases, Melehi fused Western abstraction with the patterns and decorative schemes that emerged from African and Eastern cultures, demonstrating how the latter pre-dated the former. Estimate £80,000 - £120,000.

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