London

Nigerian masterpiece 'Tutu' sells for £1.2m at auction

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBen Enwonwu's masterpiece "Tutu" was lost for more than 40 years

A missing Nigerian masterpiece found in a "modest north London flat" has sold for more than £1m at auction.

Ben Enwonwu's 1974 painting of the Ife princess Adetutu Ademiluyi, known as Tutu, became a symbol of reconciliation after Nigeria's Biafra conflict.

The painting, expected to fetch £300,000, sold for £1,205,000 - a record for a modern Nigerian artist.

Novelist Ben Okri said its discovery was "the most significant in contemporary African art in 50 years".

Bonham's director of modern African art Giles Peppiatt discovered the painting after he was invited to appraise artworks at a "modest north London flat".

Mr Peppiatt said he was regularly asked to look at versions of Tutu which turn out to be copies.

Image copyright Bonhams
Image caption Ben Enwonwu was considered the father of Nigerian modernism

It is not known how the piece came to be in north London and the owners have requested anonymity.

"The portrait of Tutu is a national icon in Nigeria, and of huge cultural significance," Mr Peppiatt said.

"I am delighted that it generated so much interest and set a new world record for the artist. It is very exciting to have played a part in the discovery and sale of this remarkable work."

Mr Enwonwu, considered the father of Nigerian modernism, painted three versions of Tutu. All three went missing after his death in 1994.

The whereabouts of the other Tutu paintings remain a mystery.

Mr Enwonwu was a student at Goldsmiths, Ruskin College, Oxford, and the Slade art school in England in the 1940s.

He became more widely known when he was commissioned to create a bronze sculpture of the Queen during her visit to Nigeria in 1956.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites