Portrait of a Nigerian princess that was lost for more than 40 years has been found in a London flat and will be sold at an auction screened live in Lagos, allowing Nigerian art lovers to make bids direct from the West African mega-city.
‘Tutu’, by Nigeria’s best-known modern artist Ben Enwonwu, was painted in 1974 and appeared at an art show in Lagos the following year but its whereabouts after that were unknown until it re-surfaced in north London.
“It was his greatest masterpiece and people have been asking ‘where is Tutu?’
“So to have this image turn up is extraordinary,” said Giles Peppiatt, an expert in modern and contemporary African art at London auction house Bonhams, who identified the painting.
The portrait of Adetutu Ademiluyi, who was a grand-daughter of a revered traditional ruler from the Yoruba ethnic group, holds special significance in Nigeria as a symbol of national reconciliation after the 1967-1970 Biafran War.
Enwonwu painted three versions of the portrait.
The other two remain lost, although prints first made in the 1970s have been in circulation ever since and the images are familiar to many Nigerians. Enwonwu died in 1994.
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Author: African Free Press