Rare Portrait by Irma Stern Tops Bonhams Modern & Contemporary African Art Sale

Watussi Chief's Wife, a striking portrait by the South African artist Irma Stern sold for £447,000 at Bonhams Modern & Contemporary African Art sale in London yesterday (Wednesday 18 March). The sale made a total of £1,770,000, and also established new world record prices at auction for eight artists.

Bonhams Director of Modern & Contemporary African Art Giles Peppiatt said: "Watussi Chief's Wife is a wonderful and moving work that reflects Irma Stern's respect for a sitter whose innate nobility Stern deeply admired. The bidding and the final price reflected its importance. Overall, I was pleased that under such difficult circumstance we were able to hold such a successful sale."

Stern (1894-1966) painted Watussi Chief's Wife in 1946 in the Belgian Congo. The sitter was a member of the Royal Court of the Rwandan King Yuhi V Musinga who was deposed by the Belgians in 1931, and exiled to Moba near Albertville. The artist has depicted her wearing the traditional Rwandan mushanana dress.

Other highlights included:

• An extremely rare archive of images taken from the photographer's studio of Z.J.S Ndimande and Sons in Greytown during Apartheid. Sold for £40,000.
Still life by Demas Nwoko (Nigerian, born 1935). Sold for £187,000.
Still life of roses and earthenware by Irma Stern. Sold for £87,000.
Ogol by Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu (Nigerian, 1917-1994). Sold for £87,000.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest and most renowned auctioneers, offering fine art and antiques, motor cars and jewelry. The main salerooms are in London, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, with auctions also held in Knightsbridge, Edinburgh, Paris, San Francisco and Sydney. With a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 22 countries, Bonhams offers advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full list of forthcoming auctions, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, please visit bonhams.com.


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