A long-lost portrait of a Nigerian princess described as ‘African Mona Lisa’, has made its first public appearance in decades. The famous painting was displayed at the ART X Lagos exhibition.
The African Mona Lisa was last displayed in Nigeria in 1975, at the Italian Embassy in Lagos.
The painting of Adetutu “Tutu” Ademiluyi, by Ben Enwonwu, a Nigerian artist, had gone missing more than 40 years ago before it ended up at a random apartment in London.
“The portrait of Tutu is a national icon in Nigeria, and of huge cultural significance,” said Giles Peppiatt, Bonham’s director of modern African art.
Recall that on February 28, 2018, the African Mona Lisa was auctioned for £1.2 million in London. The painting of the Ife princess had recently turned up in a London flat after not being seen in decades.
What may interest you about African Mona Lisa
Notably, the painting belongs to a set of three artworks created by Ben during the aftermath of Nigeria’s 1974 civil war.
The three paintings depicted the life of Ife Princes Adetutu Ademiluyi (abbreviated as “Tutu”). The two additional pictures of Ademiluyi are still missing.
Ben was inspired to paint it after he spotted the princess walking in the Nigerian countryside.
About Ben Enwonwu
Enwonwu was a Nigerian painter and sculptor, and arguably, the most influential African artist of the 20th century, his pioneering career opened the way for the postcolonial proliferation and increased the visibility of modern African art.
Enwonwu who creatively designed the African Mona Lisa, was one of the first African artists to win critical acclaim, having exhibited in August exhibition spaces in Europe and the United States and listed in international directories of contemporary art.
In 1950, Enwonwu was celebrated as “Africa’s Greatest Artist” by the international media and his fame was used to enlist support for Black Nationalists movement all over the world.