Widely considered as among the finest of all artists to have come from the Middle East, Mahmoud Said was born to an aristocratic Alexandrian family which lived in Anfoushi district in Alexandria, near Al-Moursi Abu'l-Abbas Mosque. His father, Mohammed Said Pasha, Said's father and Egypt's Prime Minister, was a keen supporter of culture and arts. He was uncle of Queen Farida, King Farouk's first wife.
Mahmoud Said graduated from the French School of Law in 1919. He worked as a lawyer, prosecutor, and then as judge in Mansouria, Alexandria and Cairo. He rose to become the Justice councillor of the Alexandria mixed court. He resigned from legal work finally in 1947, to dedicate himself solely to his art.
Mahmoud Said was taught by the Italian artist, Emilha Fazotano de Foreno, a resident of Alexandria who had studied at the Florence Academy. Said quickly learnt the classical methods of drawing faces, harmonization of colours and shading. He took further lessons by with another Florentine artist Artoro Zananeri, before leaving for Paris in 1920 for further study.
Mahmoud Said's great innovation was the adaptation of the Western painting techniques to express an individual and national character. This is a dominant characteristic in his work from the late 1920s onwards. During these years the National Egyptian Movement flourished as did the formation of an 'Egyptian' character for Egyptian art.
For his paintings of women and girls, Said used the same model from Alexandria throughout his life. He drew her in many guises- poor, bourgeois, and even aristocratic. The present painting is unusual in that it shows her in traditional dress of a red headscarf. This subject is hardly ever repeated within his oeuvre.
In late 1930's his style began to change into a kind of Egyptian impressionism. Whilst his colours remained the same, his use of outline became less prevalent, as colours and tones were merged together more softly. The present painting is from this later period, and the difference in style can be seen clearly when compared with the following lot (lot 25, La fille aux yeux verts.).
Mahmoud Said participated in international exhibitions in Venice, Madrid and Alexandria. He staged exhibitions in New York, Paris, Rome, Moscow, Alexandria and Cairo. He was admitted to the French Legion d'honneur, winning a medal for Honorary Merit in 1951, and in 1960 was the first artist to be awarded the State Merit Award for Arts by Egyptian President Gamal Abdul-Nasser.