A long-lost painting of a Nigerian princess was uncovered at a London apartment and is expected to be auctioned for around US$400,000.
The painting was done in 1974 and is titled “Tutu.”
Ben Enwonwu is the painter behind the piece, which shows Ife princess Adetutu Ademiluyi.
Booker Prize-winning novelist Ben Okri called it “the most significant discovery in contemporary African art in over 50 years,” reported the Guardian.
“It is the only authentic Tutu, the equivalent of some rare archaeological find. It is a cause for celebration, a potentially transforming moment in the world of art,” he added.
Enwonwu painted three versions of “Tutu”—but all three went missing after his death in 1994.
The painting is set to be auctioned at Bonhams’s on Feb. 28.
Giles Peppiatt, the director of modern African art at the auction house, found the painting. A family in north London approached him late last year and asked him to inspect the painting.
“Sometimes you go somewhere on a wing and a prayer, you don’t know what you are going to see … this was an enormous surprise,” Peppiatt told The Telegraph. “It is a picture, image-wise, that has been known to me for a long time, so it was a real lightbulb moment; I thought: ‘Oh my god, this is extraordinary.’”
The owners have requested anonymity, reported the BBC.
It’s unclear how they came to obtain the piece.
Enwonwu was a student at multiple universities in the U.K., including Oxford, in the ’40s.
“Tutu” is expected to fetch around 300,000 pounds (US$418,161).