Lot 39
  • 39

Mahmoud Mokhtar

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
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  • Mahmoud Mokhtar
  • Au Bord du Nil (On the Banks of the Nile)
  • signed Mouktar, inscribed Susse Fres Edts Paris and cire perdue, with the SUSSE FRERES EDITEURS pastille 

  • bronze, model size 3 
  • height: 62cm.; 24 1/4 in.
  • Executed in 1931-1947, 11 bronzes were produced during this period, 7 of which during the artist's lifetime.


Susse Freres or Galerie Bernheim Jeune, Paris
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner's mother in 1933
Thence by descent 


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


Condition: Overall the condition of the bronze is very good with some wear and minor dirt to the surface consistent with age. There is some slight rubbing to the patina of the high points and edges. There are a few slight nicks and scratches, including to the front and back dress. Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is accurate.
"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 Egypt Awakening in front of the 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 enrol in the city’s new School of Fine Arts six years later. There 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 the 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 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-Bahari. As such the figure at once symbolises ancient and modern Egypt and the reinstatement of the woman at the centre of this land. This exquisite piece has a particulary beautiful story. The sculpture was bought upon the return of a French collector from Egypt, where she fell in deep admiration of the country and especially the immense history alongside the Nile River. Once she returned to Paris, she came across Mokthar's works and fell in love with the iconic representation of the Egyptian fellaha which reminded her of her trip to Egypt. It is then that she most probably acquired the sculpture at the Bernheim Jeune Galerie or Susse Foundry who were both selling the artist's work during that period. With its strong provenance and iconographic subject matter, the present work is a collector's item at its best.