It looks like even Winston Churchill is benefitting from The Crown effect. The show portrayed the British political giant’s passion for painting and soon after a few of his works came up on the market. Christie’s sold Churchill’s Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque (a gift to Franklin D. Roosevelt) for a record-setting $11.6 million. This may have prompted the Onassis family to dig into the old family storage unit for Aristotle Onassis’s own Churchill, The Moat, Breccles, a treasured gift between the two friends. Onassis hung the painting in his yacht, the Christina, where he and Churchill spent many hours together in Churchill’s later years. The Moat, Breccles is on the block at Phillips June 23.
“The Moat, Breccles is an intriguing painting because Churchill painted it in 1921, when there was a lot of highs and lows in his life [as Secretary of State and War]. He held onto it for 40 years before he gave it to Aristotle Onassis in 1961 in gratitude for all of the cruises he took on Onassis’s yacht, so it must have been dear to him and shows how much he valued their friendship,” says Jean-Paul Engelen, the deputy chairman and worldwide co-head of 20th century and contemporary art at Phillips. Churchill was an en plein air painter, finding that sitting outside to paint in nature calmed his understandably roiling mind. He painted the scene in Breccles when visiting the country home of his wife’s cousin.
Understanding the value of the gift, Onassis installed it in the salon of the Christina, alongside works by El Greco, Pisarro, and Matisse where the international jet set like Maria Callas, Grace Kelly, and Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor (not to mention one Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) would gather. According to Engelen, the painting still has its original brackets where it was installed in the original super-yacht. “The Moat is ready for a new life, perhaps to go back out to sea again!”
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