A painting by Winston Churchill, once offered by the former British Prime Minister to his friend the Greek shipowner Aristotle Onassis, was sold for $ 1.84 million at an auction held Wednesday, June 23 in New York by the Phillips house.
This oil painting, titled The Moat, Breccles, produced by Churchill in 1921, was estimated by Phillips between 1.5 and 2 million dollars, far from the 11.6 million dollars reached by another painting of the “old lion”, sold by Angelina Jolie at Christie’s last March.
Churchill had kept this landscape for 40 years before offering it in 1961, four years before his death, to his friend and jet-set king, Aristotle Onassis, explained Jean-Paul Engelen, vice-president of Phillips, before the sale.
The wealthy shipowner was so proud of this gift that he hung it in the place of honor, behind the famous bar – named Ari’s bar – of his yacht, alongside works by Vermeer, Gauguin, Le Greco and Pissarro.
From Elizabeth Taylor to John Kennedy
This “super-yacht”, the “Christina” – the first name of Onassis’ daughter – was a former Canadian navy frigate, nearly 100 meters long. It had participated in the Normandy landings, before Onassis bought it after the war for 34,000 dollars.
Onassis had it renovated luxuriously, for some 4 million dollars, to make it “One of the most incredible floating structures”, and one of the favorite places of the jet-set of the time, recalled Engelen. From Elizabeth Taylor to John F. Kennedy, passing by Maria Callas or Richard Burton, Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier, many big names of the time boarded it.
When Onassis died in 1975 – seven years after his marriage to Jackie Kennedy – his yacht was sold, and everything on board stored, until his heirs recently decided to part with the board.
To better seduce fans of this mixture of history and stars, the auction house Phillips had reconstituted, in its New York exhibition rooms, the Ari’s Bar – including imitations of its famous whale teeth – and filled the shelves of Pol Roger champagne bottles, the favorite bubbles of “Old lion”.