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UK PM Churchill's painting of Marrakech sells for $11.5m

The piece depicts the 12th Century Marrakech mosque at sunset with the backdrop of the Atlas Mountains

A painting of Marrakech by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill sold at auction for £8.3 million ($11.5 million) yesterday.

The price, which includes a hefty commission of £1.3 million ($1.8 million), was achieved for the oil painting depicting the Tower of The Koutoubia Mosque, and smashed its pre-sale estimate of between £1.5-£2 million ($2-$2.7 million).

The piece also broke the previous record price for a Churchill painting, which stood at just under £1.8 million ($2.5 million), according to Sky News.

The painting was previously owned by Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie and was sold by the Jolie Family Collection at London auction house Christie's, to an unidentified buyer.

The piece depicts the 12th Century Marrakech mosque at sunset with the backdrop of the Atlas Mountains.

A Christie's spokesperson described the piece as "Churchill's most important work."

Adding: "Aside from its distinguished provenance, it is the only landscape he made during the war."

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Churchill produced the piece during a January 1943 visit to Morocco for the Casablanca Conference – a meeting between the British prime minister and his US counterpart, President Franklin Roosevelt, to discuss a joint offensive against Nazi Germany.

During the trip, Churchill reportedly convinced Roosevelt to travel south from Casablanca to Marrakech with him to watch the sunset over the Atlas Mountains.

A newspaper photograph taken at the time shows the pair of wartime Allied leaders admiring the sunset, Arab News reported.

The piece is believed to be the only painting produced by Churchill during World War Two and was reportedly sent to President Roosevelt as a birthday present and memento of the trip.

After the president's death in 1945, the painting was sold, eventually ending up in the hands of Angelina Jolie and her then-partner Brad Pitt who bought the piece as a gift for his partner in 2011.

The actor is known to be an avid art collector and bought some notable works, including some by Banksy and Neo Rauch, during his two-year marriage to Jolie.

Two other Churchill works were sold at London's Christie's yesterday, including his 1935 Scene at Marrakech painting which fetched £1.88 million ($2.6 million).

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