Mahmoud Mokhtar moved to Cairo in 1902 and was one of the first to enrol at Cairo’s School of Fine Arts in 1908. Mokhtar moved to Paris to study sculpture under the tutelage of Laplange and later continued his education at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. During his years in Paris he met with Egyptian nationalist revolutionary, Saad Pasha Zaghloul. As supporters of Zaghloul’s anti-colonial, anti-imperial message, Mokhtar and other expatriated artist-activists such as Mohammed Naghi sought to return to Egypt in order to produce work that was not solely aesthetically compelling but also historically significant.
Zaghloul was exiled by the British authorities in 1919, catalysing the Egyptian Revolution that year. Moved by these popular uprisings, Mokhtar began creating works which would commemorate this historic and transitional moment. Speaking about his sculpture Nahdat Misr (Renaissance of Egypt) that was constructed in 1922, he states; “The [sculpture] is owned by no one and was not made by any one individual, but it is owned by Egypt, and all of Egypt made it and rises from its base.” That year, Zaghloul and the newly-formed Wafd Party drafted the 1923 constitution.
It is truly an honour for Sotheby’s to present one of the rare maquettes of Mokhtar’s important statues of Wafd leader Saad Pasha Zaghloul. Unveiled originally in August 1938, today one edition proudly stands at the gates of the Cairo Opera House, whilst another faces outward toward Alexandria’s eastern Mediterranean harbour. These statues were the magnum opus of Mokhtar’s mission to champion Egyptian popular sentiment while remaining true to classical Egyptian aesthetic values. These maquette sculptures of Zaghloul were produced to be distributed among the various governmental entities, and represented the growing number of followers of this iconic Egyptian figure.
Mokhtar was one of the most renowned proponents of the asala movement in modern Egyptian art in the early 20th century. The root a-s-l in Arabic means “to be firmly rooted”—in noun form, asala literally can mean a tree trunk, or a sense of pure descent, lineage or tradition. With this ideational grounding, he pursued a holistic shakhsiyya misriyya (Egyptian character), even his choice in materials bear a particular regional importance. For example, his granite was mined from the southern province of Aswan and came from the bedrock of the Nubian and Sudanese regions: areas which form the foundations of Egyptian cultural life.
During the subsequent years until the Nasserist revolution in 1952, these Wafd statues were riddled with political controversy; monarchists spurned them and liberals revered them. Today however, Mokhtar’s remarkable artistic legacy is deeply carved into the ancient terrain of Egyptian cityscapes.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale