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Aristocratic art

Mahmoud Said | Adam and Eve

Mahmoud Said | Adam and Eve


Mahmoud Said was an Egyptian judge and modern painter. He was born in Alexandria on April 8th, 1897, the son of Mohamed Pacha Saïd, who was Prime Minister at a critical time in Egypt’s history (1910-1914 and again briefly in 1919) — one that witnessed the rise of nationalism which ultimately paved the road for the country’s independence. Saïd was brought up in a privileged aristocratic milieu, and was educated by foreign private tutors. He was also the uncle of the future queen of Egypt, Safinaz Zulficar, better known as Queen Farida.

Following his father’s wishes, Saïd pursued a career in law, graduating from the French Law School of Cairo in 1919. He was appointed assistant judge at the Mixed Courts of Egypt in 1922, first judge in Mansourah in 1927 and in Alexandria in 1937. He only resigned from his legal career in 1947, aged 50. Up until that point he had painted in his spare time, being torn between his passion for art and his professional obligations.


Mahmoud Said | The Inauguration of the Suez Canal (1947)

Mahmoud Said | The Inauguration of the Suez Canal (1947)


Although somewhat figurative in style and sometimes classical in subject matter, Saïd broke away from academic art and the traditions of the West, using them as stepping stones to forge his own signature style. In doing so he became a pioneer of modern Arab painting, producing art that was truly groundbreaking. Even the rebellious young artists of the Art et Liberté group — the so-called Egyptian Surrealists, who were highly critical of all the other Egyptian pioneers of the First Generation — invited Saïd to participate as a guest of honour in their first and second controversial exhibitions held in Cairo, in 1940 and 1942.

Around one in ten of Saïd’s 400-plus paintings depict female nudes. He portrayed various models in different positions, often characterised by gold-bronze skin and sensuous bodies, and complemented by simple attributes such as headscarves, jewellery, bracelets, anklets, curtains, cushions or sofas. Although Saïd had his own painting studio (originally on the top floor of the family villa in Ginaclis, Alexandria, where the current Mahmoud Saïd Museum stands), it was in the Alexandria studio of his friend, the Greek artist Aristomenis Angelopoulos (1900-1990), that he gained access to female models. These models represent the ‘plebeian’ women of Egypt — figures that Saïd regarded as embodying pure and intrinsic Egyptian beauty.


Mahmoud Saïd | Nu au rideau gris, painted in 1934

Mahmoud Saïd | Nu au rideau gris (1934)


Mahmoud Saïd passed away at the family home in Gianaclis in Alexandria on 8 April 1964, having suffered a fatal asthma attack on his 67th birthday. The next day, a grand funeral was held, with a procession headed by the students and professors of the Faculty of Fine Arts of Alexandria. The sculptor Dr. Gaber Hegazy was asked to produce plaster casts of the artist’s face and hands, which are now on view at the Mahmoud Saïd Museum in Alexandria. In 1969, the museum was sold to the Ministry of Culture, which also acquired a large part of Saïd’s art collection. The Gianaclis villa was later altered to become what is today’s museum complex. Opened in 1999, it comprises the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art, the Mahmoud Saïd Museum and the Seif and Adham Wanly Museum.

Mahmoud Saïd is the only Arab artist to date to have three paintings selling for more than $1 million at auction. Given the limited number of his works that come to market, the Alexandrian master remains one of the most sought-after modern Arab artists.


Mahmoud Said (1897 - 1964) | Les Chadoufs

Mahmoud Said (1897 - 1964) - Les Chadoufs


La Femme au Collier de Perle

Oil on silotex

50x60 Cm

19.6" x 23.6" inch

Signed - 1924


Information respectfully taken from Christie's website:

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