Ben Enwonwu Painting “Christine” Fetches £1.1 Million After Google Search
A painting by Ben Enwonwu sold at auction in London on Tuesday, 15th October 2019, for £1.1 million. This happened after the family who owned it googled the signature and realised its importance. The Nigerian artist is responsible for the famous “African Mona Lisa”.
“Christine”, by the 20th century master of African modernism, Ben Enwonwu, had been in the sitter’s family home ever since it was painted in Lagos in 1971.
“The family were unaware of the significance of the painting or the importance of the artist, until a chance “googling” of the signature led them to Sotheby’s free Online Estimate Platform,” said the London auction house.
The painting fetched over seven times the pre-auction estimate. It finally went under the hammer for £1.1 million (1.3 million euros, $1.4 million).
The work precedes the artist’s 1974 painting of Ife royal princess Adetutu “Tutu” Ademiluyi. “Tutu” recently turned up in a London flat after not being seen in decades.
The portrait is a national icon in Nigeria. The Booker Prize-winning novelist, Ben Okri, told AFP that many thought of the painting as “the African Mona Lisa”.
Many consider Enwonwu to be the father of Nigerian modernism. The painter died in 1994.
He also made three paintings of “Tutu”. However, the locations of all the paintings were a mystery until the recent discovery.
The works became symbols of peace following the clash of ethnic groups in the Nigerian–Biafran conflict of the late 1960s.