Monika Pon-Su-San passed away on the 14th June from natural causes in Johannesburg.
She was 86.

In 1952 she met the Russian artist, Vladimir Tretchikoff, while she was working at her uncle’s laundromat in Cape Town. Tretchikoff asked whether she would sit for him, which led to his iconic Chinese Girl painting. The painting was sold to a woman in Chicago when Tretchikoff toured the United States in 1953. Wikipedia reports that the painting, distinct for the blue-green skin tone of the face, is one of the world’s best-selling art reproductions of the twentieth century.

The print made famous in the 1960s and 70s features in diverse popular culture media such as a David Bowie music video, music album covers, in a Don Paterson poem, a BBC TV Series and symbolic feature films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972).

‘The Green Lady’ was the star attraction of the retrospective exhibition, Tretchikoff: The People’s Painter, shown at the South African National Gallery in 2011. Monika was interviewed by several local and international media, as well as by BBC and CNN:

In 2013 the painting was purchased by the wealthy English jeweller, Laurence Graff, for almost $3.5 million (£982,050) at Bonhams auction house in London and it is now on display at his Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch.

Monika enjoyed the brief limelight of being the Chinese Girl but never made any money out of it. After she got married in 1953, she moved to Johannesburg with her husband. Her marriage fell apart early on, and she raised her five children by working as a shipping clerk and, in her spare time, as a dressmaker. She subsequently met her life partner, Enrico Tabasso, and a love story ensued that spanned forty-four years.

Monika is survived by Enrico, her sons Tyronne and Tyming and her daughters Shana, Margo and Vigil. A touching memorial service, to honour and celebrate Monika’s life, was held at the Mater Dolorosa Catholic Church in Kensington, Johannesburg, on the 20th June.

For more information please contact: Margo Su San /Email:

(Start 29 June –  Image Supplied)