It’s the celebrity gossip military historians didn’t know they needed — until now.
It’s not often Angelina Jolie and Winston Churchill are uttered in the same sentence, but as CNN reports, Jolie is selling a painting by the famed prime minister titled “Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque.” Gifted by her then-husband Brad Pitt, the actor purchased the artwork from upscale antique store M.S. Rau in 2011. The painting is expected to sell for up to £2.5 million ($3.4 million) at auction.
An avid painter, Churchill completed more than 500 paintings throughout his life — but only one, “Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque,” during the course of World War II. He created the painting of the 12th century mosque in Marrakesh, Morocco, as a gift for President Franklin D. Roosevelt shortly after the 1943 Casablanca Conference, according to artnet News.
At the conference Churchill and Roosevelt had agreed to nothing less than “unconditional surrender” from the Axis powers, with Roosevelt telling reporters in 1943, “Some of you Britishers know the old story—we had a general named U.S. Grant,” Roosevelt said. “His name was Ulysses Simpson Grant but in my, and the prime minister’s early days, he was called ‘Unconditional Surrender Grant.’”
Following the Casablanca Conference, the prime minister convinced Roosevelt to delay his trip home and accompany him south to Marrakech, which Churchill deemed “the most lovely spot in the world.” After Roosevelt’s departure, Churchill completed the painting before his return to England.
Nick Orchard, head of modern British art at Christie’s auction house, said in a statement, “It is the only work that Churchill painted during the war, perhaps encouraged by the recent progress made by the Allies in what he considered to be one of the most beautiful countries he had encountered.”
“’Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque,’” Orchard continued, “is therefore arguably the best painting by Winston Churchill due to the significance of the subject matter to him, and the fact that it highlights the importance of the friendship between the two leaders.”
Although their relationship was at times strained, the two Allied leaders possessed a genuine fondness for one another, with Roosevelt writing to Churchill on January 30, 1942, “It is fun to be in the same decade with you.”
Eventually gifted to Roosevelt’s son Elliott, “Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque” was later sold to a filmmaker in the 1960s, according to Bill Rau, the antique seller who owned the painting prior to Jolie.
The historic artifact then ended up being stored in a family’s closet in New Orleans for over 50 years before Rau was contacted by the stepdaughter who had inherited the piece. Ten years after the Pitt sale, the painting is once again going on the market.
“Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque” is due to go on sale on March 1 — so if anyone is ready to drop $3.4 million, now is the time.