This $1 Million Painting Once Helped Save Nelson Mandela’s Life

Artnet News | Sarah Cascone:


Once auctioned to help defray Nelson Mandela’s legal costs, a lost painting by South Africa’s leading artist Irma Stern, sold yesterday at Bonhams London for £842,500 ($1.3 million).


Irma Stern, Arab in Black (1939). Photo: courtesy of Bonhams.

Arab in Black (1939) took a circuitous journey to the auction house’s South African art sale. In 1955, Nelson Mandela was arrested and charged with treason, and could have faced the death penalty if convicted. In the early 1960s, Stern donated Arab in Black to the Treason Trial Defense Fund, set up to cover the legal costs of Mandela and his co-defendants, and to support their families. Mandela was found not guilty in 1961…


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