A rare painting by Winston Churchill featuring the famously bibulous British World War II leader’s favourite brand of whisky fetched nearly £1 million at auction in London on Tuesday.
The 1930s oil painting, of a bottle of Johnny Walker’s Black label whisky and a bottle of brandy with a jug and glasses, sparked a bidding battle before it sold for £983,000 ($1.3 million, 1.1 million euros).
The sale, at a Sotheby’s online auction of modern and post-war British art, was around five times above pre-sale estimates and among the highest ever reached under the hammer for a Churchill painting.
The war-time leader, who was a keen amateur artist, created the still life work — entitled “Jug with Bottles" — in the 1930s at his country house Chartwell, in Kent, southeast England.
It reflected his fondness for the Johnny Walker blend, which he often drank first thing in the morning with soda water, according to Sotheby’s.
He later gave it to the American businessman W. Averell Harriman, who acted as US special envoy to Europe in the 1940s.
Harriman was photographed sitting between Churchill and Stalin in Moscow in 1942, and the gift of the painting suggests he shared convivial drams with Churchill.
The famous politician would give paintings to “like-minded people," said Simon Hucker, co-head of modern and post-war British art at Sotheby’s, ahead of the auction.
It is unclear whether Churchill knew that Pamela Churchill, the wife of his son Randolph, was having an affair with Harriman during this period, The Times newspaper has reported.
Pamela Churchill married Harriman decades later in the 1970s and the painting was sold following her death in 1997.
It was back on sale on Tuesday after the deaths of the later owners, US collectors Barbara and Ira Lipman.
A similar work by Churchill, featuring a collection of bottles and called “Bottlescape", still hangs at Chartwell.