A painter and sculptor, Ben Enwonwu becomes in 1971 the first professor of art of the University of Ife, a Yoruba city with a cultural tradition of very high antiquity. He is an Ibo, the secessionist ethnic group of Biafra. He seeks a theme that can symbolize the reconciliation.
In 1973 Enwonwu sees a pretty Yoruba young woman and asks the permission to execute her portrait. At first reluctant to this request from an Ibo artist, the parents agree. The artist appreciates the excellence of his choice when he knows that his new model is the granddaughter of a previous king of Ife.
The first portrait of the princess Tutu by Enwonwu is the message of peace and hope that the Nigerian society needed and its printed image is very widely disseminated in the country. The original painting was kept by the artist until his death. It is not currently located.
Enwonwu revisits Tutu in 1974. In his second portrait the composition is similar but the behavior has changed : the youthful princess is now confident in the artist and her gaze is serene. This oil on canvas 97 x 67 cm that was last seen in 1975 has just resurfaced in the suburbs of London. It is estimated £ 200K for sale by Bonhams in London in duplex with Lagos on February 28, lot 47.
A third and last portrait of Tutu was painted by Enwonwu in 1974. Its whereabouts are not known.
SOLD for £ 1.2M including premium