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.

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