An old Texas family painting turns out to be a $200,000 artwork by iconic Nigerian artist, Ben Enwonwu

New artwork by Ben Enwonwu, one of Africa’s most iconic artists, has been found.

Ben Enwonwu's recently discovered Christine is valued at $200,000 (Sotheby’s)

Just like 'Tutu' was found in a London apartment, this portrait was part of a collection belonging to a family living in Texas for over 40 years. 

The discovery was made after members of the Davis family googled the signature scribbled on an old painting and found it to be a precursor to the artist’s best-known work sold for $1.6 million in 2018.

The painting in question titled, 'Christine' is a beautiful portrayal of Christine Elizabeth Davis, an American hairstylist of West Indian descent, who moved from Accra, Ghana, to Lagos with her British missionary husband, Elvis Davis. She is the late stepmother of the present owners.

The artwork, which was painted in less than a week, depicts Christine in traditional Nigerian attire, including a Gele (headscarf).

It was done in 1971 after Enwonwu was commissioned by Christine’s husband to paint a portrait of his wife. The artist was appointed the first professor of Fine Arts at the University of Ife around the same time.

The couple eventually moved back to Texas, where Christine, who was in her mid-30s at the time, passed away. The painting remained forgotten as it hung on the family’s wall for decades until its recent discovery.

According to Sotheby’s, the portrait is valued at up to £150,000 ($200,000) and will be on auction at Modern & Contemporary African Art Auction on October 15, 2019.

The discovery of Christine is similar to that of Enwonwu’s 1974 painting Tutu. The portrait of Nigerian royal princess Adetutu Ademiluyi, which has been referred to as the “African Mona Lisa,” was uncovered in a flat in North London in 2018.

Nigerian novelist Ben Okri described the find as the “most significant discovery in contemporary African art in over 50 years.” 

Tutu went on to sell for £1.2 million ($1.7 million), making Enwonwu the second highest-earning Nigerian artist. 


Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or: