Irma Stern's Mandela painting sold for $1.2m

Irma Stern's Arab in Black, a painting auctioned to pay Nelson Mandela's legal bills in the 1960s, has sold for £842,500 ($1.2m).

The lot headlined Bonhams' sale of South African art in London on September 9.

Irma Stern Arab
Irma Stern is one of South Africa's greatest artists

When Nelson Mandela was charged with high treason in 1956, a number of artists provided works to be sold to fund his defence.

He was found not guilty in 1961, but given a life sentence in 1964.

The painting was discovered in a London apartment, where it had hung as a noticeboard for many years.

Hannah O'Leary, Bonhams' head of South African art explains: "I was undertaking a routine valuation when I spotted this masterpiece hanging in the kitchen covered in letters, postcards and bills.

"It was a hugely exciting find even before I learned of its political significance."

Congo Woman, another painting by Stern, made £122,500 ($188,401).

Irma Stern is South Africa's most valuable artist. In 2011, a work titled Arab Priest made a record £3m ($4.6m) at Bonhams.

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