Lot 339
  • 339

Mahmoud Mokhtar

120,000 - 180,000 GBP
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  • Mahmoud Mokhtar
  • Au Bord du Nil (Ala Shat Elnil / On the Banks of the Nile)
  • signed Mouktar, inscribed: Susse Fres Edts Paris and cire perdue, with the SUSSE FRERES EDITEURS pastille 
  • bronze, dark brown patina 
  • height: 119.4cm.; 47in.
  • Cast in circa 1920s.


Private Collection, Cleveland
Sale: Cleveland Auction Co., Tremont, Various Owner Sale, October 25, 2010
Private Collection, New York


Ahmed Rassim, Shadow: A Page From Modern Art, Cairo, 1936, p. 6, another version in marble illustrated
Badr Eldin Abou Ghazi, The Sculptor: Mokhtar, Cairo, 1964, n.p., another version illustrated 
Mohamed Sedki Al-Gabakhangy, The History of the Egyptian Art Movement to 1945, Cairo, 1986, n.p., another version in gesso illustrated
Badr Eldin Abou Ghazi, Mokhtar: His Life and His Art, Cairo, 1988, another version in marble illustrated


The bronze is a high quality lifetime cast by the Susse Foundry with beautifully cast details, which are in good condition. The patina is consistent with the bronze having been displayed outside for a period of time. The surface consequently exhibits an attractive green patina in areas, particularly at the head, shoulders, urn and top of the base. A brown patina is visible where the alloy has not greened. The surface is dry, giving it a matt appearance, and there is minor dirt to the surface and underside; the bronze would therefore benefit from a professional clean and wax. There are a number of original round plugs, principally at the top of the base, upper body and urn. One plug at the base is lost. There is a minor fissure with two original plugs on the left side of the top of the base. There are some minor nicks to the surface, in particular to the drapery at the reverse. There are a few flecks of red and brown paint to the reverse. There are minor light scratches to the surface. There are some blue/grey residues, including to the proper left shin and flanking drapery and to the reverse. There is a small lacuna to the upper back, and some minor original casting flaws to the top of the urn.Whilst the patina is attractive, a professional conservator may be able to replicate the brown patina if this is desired by the purchaser. A conservator's condition report is available upon request. Sotheby's can also request a quote for restoration of the patina.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Like no other, Mahmoud Mokhtar was able to visualise the struggle for political independence and the emancipation of women in Egypt in the first decades of the 20th century. The elegance and determined posture of the present water carrier, stylised according to the aesthetic of the great sculptures of Ancient Egypt and the fashionable Parisian Art Deco, are characteristic of his art. This spirit is equally part of Mokhtar’s public sculpture, such as the granite Nahdet Masr (Egypt Awakening) in front of Giza Zoo and Saad Zaghloul next to Qasr El-Nil Bridge, which still towers over Cairo today.

Mokhtar moved to Cairo from the countryside in 1902 and was amongst the first to enroll in the city’s new School of Fine Arts six years later. He honed his skills as a sculptor under the tutelage of the Parisian professor Laplagne until a scholarship from the Egyptian Prince Kamal Youssef enabled Mokhtar to continue his education at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. There he was introduced to the latest artistic styles and the political force of art that would characterise his work from then on. Perhaps the most significant meeting of Mokhtar’s Parisian sojourn was with political leader Saad Zaghloul. The sculptor joined forces with Zaghloul upon his return to Cairo and became part of the group of intellectuals and revolutionaries who established independence from Britain in 1922.

Au Bord du Nil represents the peasant woman, or fellaha, who was adopted as the emblem of Egypt’s revolutionary movement in the early 20th century. Much like the woman in Nahdet Masr (Egypt Awakening) she stands tall, poised to adjust her veil, revealing her feminine beauty whilst carrying out the menial but essential task of sourcing water from the river Nile. Her frontal pose and the stylised visage and folds of the drapery are reminiscent of statues of Egyptian queens, such as the statues of Hatshepsut flanking the entrance to her tomb at Deir-el-Bahar. As such the figure at once symbolises ancient and modern Egypt and the reinstatement of the woman at the centre of this land. Mokhtar famously said: “When I was a child, there had been no sculpture and no sculptor in my country for more than seventeen hundred years. The images that appeared among the ruins and sands at the edge of the desert were considered to be accursed and evil idols – no one should come near.” He was the first Egyptian sculptor to follow the pharaonic tradition of sculpting.

The life-size marble version of Au Bord du Nil now stands at the entrance of the Mokhtar Museum in Cairo.  An example of Au Bord du Nil was initially showcased at Exposition Universelle in 1930 in Paris. Sotheby’s is honored to have been entrusted to sell this iconic Mokhtar sculpture, the largest of its kind to appear in auction measuring 119.4cm high. This is without a doubt the most prestigious sculpture created by the father of modern Egyptian sculpture.

Quotes by Mokhtar

The language of art is a universal language spoken by the globe. Science and literature, on the other hand, are different languages. The effect of art defies time and is separate from one’s identity. Art saves all souls, both the simple and the most refined –

The Artist in an interview with Al Akhbar Newspaper, August 10, 1920