A painting by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill raised $1.84 million at an auction in New York on Wednesday – converted one and a half million euros. The canvas was auctioned by Phillips auction house, who already expected the painting to raise between 1.5 and 2 million dollars.
The painting was sold by the next of kin of Aristotle Onassis. Churchill gave the canvas to the Greek billionaire in the late 1950s. Churchill was not known to give away many of his works of art. Together with Queen Elizabeth and former President of America Dwight Eisenhower, Onassis is one of the few people who received a painting. “If you are friends with one of the richest and most powerful people in the world, you give them a gift that you are dear to yourself,” said earlier the auction house vice-president.
The painting is called The Moat, Breccles and is based on a landscape near Norfolk. Churchills wifes cousin lived there in the Breccles Hall mansion. The painting was last seen in public in 1964 in a documentary about Churchill.
De Brit and the Greek met in 1956 and soon became friends. The former British Prime Minister regularly went on Onassis yacht cruises. The painting was in a bar on the yacht, alongside paintings by Vermeer, Gaugin and Pissarro. The bar was decorated with whale teeth and chairs covered with whale foreskin. For safety, the bar has been counterfaced, but no real whale teeth or foreskin are used for it.
The yacht was donated to the Greek government by his daughter after Onassiss death in 1975. The furnishings were preserved and has been in a storage space ever since. The Onassis family now thought it was time to change the Churchill canvas to another collector. Whoever is the buyer of the canvas did not reveal the auction house.