Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Anyanwu (1956) 236 x 71 x 45cm (92 15/16 x 27 15/16 x 17 11/16in).
Lot 29* W TP
Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E
(Nigerian, 1917-1994)
Anyanwu (1956) 236 x 71 x 45cm (92 15/16 x 27 15/16 x 17 11/16in).
Sold for £353,000 (US$ 465,809) inc. premium

Lot Details
Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Anyanwu (1956) 236 x 71 x 45cm (92 15/16 x 27 15/16 x 17 11/16in). Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Anyanwu (1956) 236 x 71 x 45cm (92 15/16 x 27 15/16 x 17 11/16in). Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Anyanwu (1956) 236 x 71 x 45cm (92 15/16 x 27 15/16 x 17 11/16in). Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Anyanwu (1956) 236 x 71 x 45cm (92 15/16 x 27 15/16 x 17 11/16in). Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Anyanwu (1956) 236 x 71 x 45cm (92 15/16 x 27 15/16 x 17 11/16in). Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Anyanwu (1956) 236 x 71 x 45cm (92 15/16 x 27 15/16 x 17 11/16in). Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Anyanwu (1956) 236 x 71 x 45cm (92 15/16 x 27 15/16 x 17 11/16in). Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Anyanwu (1956) 236 x 71 x 45cm (92 15/16 x 27 15/16 x 17 11/16in). Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Anyanwu (1956) 236 x 71 x 45cm (92 15/16 x 27 15/16 x 17 11/16in).
Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994)
Anyanwu (1956)
signed and dated 'BEN ENWONWU 1956' (to the front central section of the figure's tail)
bronze
236 x 71 x 45cm (92 15/16 x 27 15/16 x 17 11/16in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Purchased by a private collector in London, circa 1970.
    Private collection, Lagos.


    Anyanwu is widely considered Enwonwu's masterpiece. Several smaller versions of the sculpture have passed through Bonhams' salerooms, most recently in Africa Now: Modern Africa, May 2016. The current lot is the first full-size cast to come to market. At 6ft10 high, the sculpture dwarfs the later editions. Enwonwu sculpted and cast the work in 1956 at the London studios of the acclaimed British sculptor, Sir William Reed Dick. The previous year, Enwonwu had received an MBE from HM Queen Elizabeth II, raising his international profile to an all-time high. He sculpted a portrait of the monarch in the same year the present lot was cast.

    The first full-size Anyanwu was commissioned in 1954 by the Colonial Government of Nigeria to celebrate the establishment of the National Museum at Onikan in Lagos by the acclaimed artist and archaeologist, Kenneth Crosthwaite Murray. Enwonwu had been one of Murray's first students in the 1930s and shared his commitment to reviving Nigeria's art and craft traditions. Inspired by the shrine carvings of his sculptor father, Enwonwu's work represented a return to traditional Igbo aesthetics.

    Titled after the Igbo word for 'the sun', Anyanwu references the traditional practice of venerating ChiUkwu (the Great Spirit) by saluting the rising sun. Enwonwu depicts the female deity rising up out of the ground, her lithe body arching towards the sky. This upward trajectory was intended to symbolise the aspirations of the soon-to-be independent nation. Her noble bearing is underlined by her 'chicken-beak' headdress and coral jewellery: the royal regalia of the Bini people. Enwonwu described his vision for the sculpture thus:

    "My aim was to symbolise our rising nation. I have tried to combine material, crafts and traditions, to express a conception that is based on womanhood – woman, the mother and nourisher of man. In our rising nation, I see the forces embodied in womanhood; the beginning, and then, the development and flowering into the fullest stature of a nation – a people! This sculpture is spiritual in conception, rhythmical in movement and three dimensional in its architectural setting – these qualities are characteristic of the sculptures of my ancestors."

    The artist's words clearly express his belief that Anyanwu was a visual manifestation of the new Nigeria, culturally-confident and proud of her heritage. Such was the symbolic potency of the sculpture that the Nigerian ambassador, Chief Adebo, presented an almost identical cast to the United Nations headquarters on 5 October 1966, a few days after the country's sixth independence anniversary. Having studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, Enwonwu was highly aware of the debt European Modernism owed to Africa's artistic traditions. Anyanwu's dynamic, semi-abstract form was a clear reminder, and affirmed Nigeria's position as a leading independent nation, ready to take its place the world stage.

    Cast an entire decade before the version gifted to the United Nations, the present lot is Enwonwu's second edition of his magnum opus. It was purchased in London by a close friend of the artist in the 1970s, and has been in a private collection ever since.

    Bibliography
    S. Ogbechie, Ben Enwonwu: the Making of an African Modernist. (Rochester, 2008). pp.130-2.
    C. Okeke-Agulu, 'On Ben Enwonwu's Anyanwu', Ofodunka: Art, Life, Politics. http://chikaokeke-agulu.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/on-ben-enwonwus-anyanwu.html
    I. Oguachuba, 'The Artist and Women
 Discourse
', Art eJournal of the African.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note: this lot will be removed to Cadogan Tate, 241 Acton Lane, London, NW10 7NP at 9am Thursday 16 February 2017. Please see the catalogue for further information regarding the collection of over-sized lots.
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