A painting titled Christine, was sold at Sotheby’s for £1.1 million which was created by Nigerian master painter Ben Enwonwu, the man behind ‘African Mona Lisa’. The painting is of Christine Davis, an American hairstylist and a friend of Ben Enwonwu, who is considered as one of the most influential African artists of the 20th century. The auction took place under "Modern and Contemporary African Art" sale in London on October 15.
Sotheby’s said that the magnificent early masterpiece, Christine, was sold for £1.1 mn, more than seven times the estimated price, after a 13-minute bidding battle. According to the London auction house, the family who owned the painting was not aware of its significance and importance of the artist. They ‘googled’ the signature when they came to know about the master painter behind that artwork.
#AuctionUpdate: Sold! Ben Enwonwu's magnificent early masterpiece,'Christine', sells for £1.1m after a 13 minute bidding battle - going for more than 7x the high estimate #SothebysCPTAfrican pic.twitter.com/ygj9oZNJjT— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) October 15, 2019
The price of Enwonwu is his second-best after his famous 'Tutu', also known as ‘African Mona Lisa’, painting got sold at £1.2 million in February 2018. But the date of ‘Christine’ precedes ‘Tutu’ as the latter was created in 1974, three years after ‘Christine’. The ‘Tutu’ was a painting of Nigerian princess Adetutu 'Tutu' Ademiluyi.
"The similarities between Christine and Tutu are striking. Stylistically, the artist employs similar techniques in both works, a mixture of clearly defined and loose brushstrokes," the catalogue of Sotheby’s noted. "Christine, in the present lot, sits up tall and elegant, there is a subtle emotion conveyed through her gentle Mona Lisa-like smile and a sense of ease in her eyes which emanates to the viewer. Christine and Tutu are bonded, especially in the dignified presentation of both figures, translated through their embodiment of a regal posture and authority of a statesman," it added.
Ben Enwonwu was born in a noble family of Nigeria when it was a British Colony. Enwonwu’s art is described as a “unique form of African modernism.” His notable works include Portrait of Chief Candido Joao Da Rocha, Bronze sculpture of Queen Elizabeth II, Sango: the Yoruba god of lightning and thunder, Tutu, Risen Christ and the latest discovery 'Christine'. The Risen Christ was displayed at the University of Ibadan but was torched as a result of political-religious tension.