What would you do if you found out that the almost forgotten portrait of your mother in your family house could change your life?
This was the case of the Davis family who randomly did a Google Search on the artist’s name and found out that what they owned was only a precursor to the artist’s best known work which sold for $1.6 million in 2018. The artist was Ben Enwonwu and this portrait was Christine.
Christine Elizabeth Davis, the sitter, was an American hair stylist of West Indian descent who traveled alot. She worked in Ghana before moving to Lagos with her British husband who commissioned the work in 1971. It was a gift to his wife before they eventually moved to the United States a few years later.
The painting was completed in a week. Christine who was in her mid-30s passed away in Texas later. However, the painting stayed in the family.
Three months ago it was valued by Sothebys at $200,000, but on Tuesday the portrait sold in London for over seven times the estimated price at $1.4 million. But it won’t be the first time this artist’s work has been auctioned at a remarkable price.
Ben Enwonwu’s best known portrait, Tutu was sold for a remarkable $1.6 million in 2018. It was originally estimated to be worth a quarter of that price.
Tutu is the depiction of Nigerian royal princess, Adetutu Ademiluyi. Tutu has also been called the Nigerian Mona Lisa as prints of Tutu adorn the walls of living rooms across Nigeria.
Formerly thought to be lost, its discovery in 2017 was a surprise. Tutu was found in a modest London flat and the owners had no idea of its importance or value.
Ben Enwonwu, died in 1994 at the age of 77. He was a Nigerian painter and sculptor and his career spanned 60 years. Ben Enwonwu was arguably the most influential African artist of the 20th century.