Mahmoud Saïd’s daring and vivid 1937 painting Adam and Eve (Estimate £300,000–500,000) will lead Sotheby’s 20th Century Art / Middle East auction in London on 24 April.
Together with La Famille (1935–1936) and L’Exode (1941), Adam and Eve is one of only three pieces that explore a couple’s relationship in the entire oeuvre of Saïd. While it is also one of his rare pieces referencing traditional religious iconography, typically depicted by the Old Masters in Europe, what strikes us here is Saïd’s confident adaptation of the Biblical story, transported to the Egyptian countryside. By contending with a strong lineage of classical artistic traditions, spanning from Albrecht Dürer, Titian, Peter Paul Rubens, Michelangelo, Lucas Cranach the Elder to Corot, Renoir, Cézanne, Fernand Léger, Picasso and others, Saïd claims his place among the masters of modern art.
MAHMOUD SAÏD, ADAM & EVE, 1937 (EST. £300,000-500,000)
Painted in 1937, the same year the artist executed some of his most important works–such as the monumental painting La Ville, exhibited at the Egyptian Pavilion of the 1937 Exposition Universelle de Paris and standing in the hall of the Egyptian Modern Art Museum in Cairo today – Adam and Eve shows Saïd at the height of his artistic maturity. Indeed, his deft fusion of Western artistic traditions spanning Italian and Flemish Primitivism, Renaissance art, Impressionism and modern art, together with Ancient Egyptian art and other local subject matter produces a transcendental work, typical of his style.
DETAIL: MAHMOUD SAÏD, ADAM & EVE, 1937 (EST. £300,000-500,000)
His works had the unparalleled ability to enchant and entice, romanticising Egyptian subjects in a characteristically whimsical and dream-like fashion. Painted at a time where there was a rising tide in the population for a state of their own, this painting can be seen as an allegory of the dream of an independent Egyptian nation.
Speaking about the work, Sotheby’s Contemporary Arab and Iranian Art Specialist and Head of Sale Ashkan Baghestani said: “Seminal in its subject matter and the sheer force of painting, Mahmoud Saïd’s unique depiction of Adam and Eve is one of the most important works by the artists to ever appear at auction.
“The painting embodies so many spheres of influence – from the works of Egyptian antiquity to the grand style of the European Old Masters and his own glorious depictions of the lush landscape of the Nile. Having remained unseen for a quarter of a century, we are thrilled to be bringing this glorious work to auction this April.”