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By Damilola Faustino

Late Nigerian artist and painter, Ben Enwonwu’s long-lost portrait of a Nigerian princess dubbed the “African Mona Lisa” has been sold in London for £1.2 million (1.4 million euros, $1.7 million).

ben enwonwuThe 1974 painting of Adetutu “Tutu” Ademiluyi, by Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu, was expected to fetch up to £300,000 (339,000 euros, $414,000) when it was auctioned at Bonham’s auction house.

The auction house described the painting of an Ife royal princess which recently turned up in a London flat after not being seen in decades as “rare and remarkable”.

Giles Peppiatt, Bonhams’ director of modern African art said: “The portrait of Tutu is a national icon in Nigeria, and of huge cultural significance.” 

Peppiatt added the family were “pretty astounded” to learn it was “a missing masterpiece”.

ben enwonwu

Ben Enwonwu made three paintings of “Tutu”, the locations of all of which had been 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.

Enwonwu’s work “Negritude”, also painted in the 1970s, sold for £100,000 (113,000 euros $138,000) in the same sale.

The auction was broadcast live to a Bonham’s site in Lagos, where bidders were able to participate in real time.

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