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A Commission Fit For a Queen.

SURPRISE - I'm bringing you one more work in the Art of Courts & Kings Series!

Don't say I am not good to you!

I LOVE this photograph.

It shows one of Africa’s best-known artists, Ben Enwonwu, working on a commission of a very young Queen Elizabeth II.

So, it seems only fair to end the series – The Art of Courts & Kings, on this image.

This work is slightly different to the rest of the series in that, it was commissioned by the government of Lagos to stand outside their parliament building, which might seem strange, before you remember Nigeria was a British Colony until 1960.

This work was commissioned in the 1954/55 and finished in1956.

Enwonwu was selected for the commission which the Queen sat for on a number of occasions – even sitting for him once at Buckingham Palace. By accepting the commission, Ben became the first African artist EVER to produce an official portrait of a European monarch.

When unveiled, Queen Elizabeth II was so taken with the work and the skill of Enwonwu, she bought some of his pieces. His work is now represented in the Royal Collection and looked after by her majesties’ Royal Collection Trust.

For his services and contribution to art, he was awarded an OBE in 1958, after this he achieved great recognition and fame during his life.

The work is still on display outside the parliament building in Lagos.

The role of art here is twofold - it continues the tradition of patronage which we have witness throughout history but it also shines a light and stands as a reminder of Britain’s colonial past, which, with everything that has been happening around the world; stands as a reminder that we are not innocent.

It’s also a reminder to myself that I have not included any examples of art from courts and Kings of Africa. I will do better in in future series to make sure I change this.

Jo McLaughlin November 2020


Ben Enwonwu, was a Nigerian painter and sculptor.

He is arguably the most influential African artist of the 20th century. His pioneering career opened the way for the postcolonial proliferation and increased visibility of modern African art. He is more recognised and celebrated as a painter and his works at auction have seen the hammer fall at over $1.6 million.

He received a scholarship to study at the Slade School of Fine Art and later Goldsmiths, London.

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