Mahmoud painting by Sir Alfred Munnings up for auction

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Detail of the Munnings portrait of Mahmoud (78 x 99cm).
Detail of the Munnings portrait of Mahmoud (78 x 99cm).

A famous portrait of 1936 Epsom Derby winner Mahmoud is among the lots going under the hammer at a Christies auction in Paris next month.

The work by Sir Alfred Munnings is among the collection of Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan that will be sold on October 1, and is expected to fetch between €200,000 and €300,000 ($US235,000-350,000).

Owned by the Aga Khan, Mahmoud posted a record time in the derby, and his stablemate Taj Akbar finished second, which was the first time in the 150 year history of the race that an owner had achieved a quinella.

Born in 1933, Mahmoud was not always the favorite of his owner, who had tried to sell him as a yearling. But following this famous Derby of 1936, the Aga Khan commissioned portraits of the champion from Munnings, then recognized as one of the most brilliant equestrian painters on the English art scene. Another painting from this commission showing the horse being saddled recently resurfaced on the American market.

In his memoirs, Alfred Munnings recalls his enthusiasm for painting these two models, whose complicity and mutual understanding pleased him: “I liked Mahmoud, and liked painting him, one reason being that he was looked after by a most intelligent lad who understood me as well as his horse.”

After the 1936 season, Mahmoud was then sold to businessman Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney and became one of the main stallions of North America, sire of many leading horses including Gallant Man, Gray Dawn and Career Boy. His daughter Almahmoud became one of the most important broodmares of the 20th century.

The collection will be sold at 9 Avenue Matignon on October 1, and features pieces that were displayed in the Aga Khan’s Geneva home, Bellerive Castle. Henri Samuel, one of the most exclusive interior designers of the 20th Century, was in charge of the decoration of the château on the shores of Lake Geneva.

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