Iconic “African Mona Lisa’ was discovered, hits auction block
A symbol of Nigerian pride, Ben Enwonwu the paiting of Ife, princess Adetutu Ademiluyi, known as the “Tutu” was gone, for more than twenty years. Discovered in London, “Tutu” is about hitting the hammer.
A long-lost ‘national pride’ painting of a Nigerian princess is at the auction in the united kingdom after the surprising discovery in a North London apartment.
“Tutu”, a portrait of Princess Adetutu Ademiluyi, was painted in 1974 by the Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu and messages in the media compared with that of the “Mona Lisa.”
The portrait, which will be auctioned by Bonhams in London in February. 28, has a pre-sale estimate of 200,000 to 300,000 UK pounds ($280,702 $421,053).
GOOGLE APP COMPARES SELFIES MUSEUM PORTRAITS, GOES VIRAL
Three versions of “Tutu” were painted by Enwonwu between 1973 and 1974, all of which were considered lost until the discovery of the present painting. The image, which is generally known in Nigeria, became a symbol of national reconciliation after the bloody Nigerian-Biafran conflict of the 1960s.
The “Tutu” portrait (Bonhams)
Bonhams’ Director of Modern African Art, Giles Peppiatt, discovered the masterpiece after he was called to a “modest” apartment in North London, at the end of last year, according to the auction house.
“It was very special to see this painting on the wall, as soon as I saw it, I was pretty sure I knew what it was,” Peppiatt told Fox News. “It was far beyond my wildest expectations.”
IS GOOGLE’S VIRAL ART APP RACIST?
Peppiatt described the painting of the owners, who have requested to remain anonymous, as an “ordinary” family. “They inherited from their father, who had business interests in Nigeria,” he said.
Bonhams regularly receives calls about alleged “Tutu” portraits, which turn out to be the prints of the 1973 version of the painting. The original painting found in the North of London, however, is an important find. “I think it’s probably the most important painting that Ben Enwonwu ever produced,” said Peppiatt.
The portrait of Ademiluyi, a princess from Nigeria’s Ife region, disappeared in the 1970s.
LEONARDO DA VINCI ‘ S $450 MILLION ‘SALVATOR MUNDI’ PAINTING HEADS FROM THE LOUVRE ABU DHABI
“It is an incredibly courageous and brave painting, that three-quarter length pose, gazing directly at you,” Peppiatt said. “It is a beautiful painting.”
The auction for the “Tutu” will also be broadcast live to a Bonhams auction event in the Nigerian capital Lagos, where the bidders will also be able to take part. “Negroid,” another work of Enwonwu, will also be auctioned during the event.
“The market for modern and contemporary African art is very strong,” said Peppiatt. “There is a huge resurgence of interest in the Nigerian art and contemporary African art across the board.”
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers