Day Sale: Modern and Contemporary Art

Timed Online Auction, 28 August - 18 September 2023

Modern and Contemporary Art with a focus on Cape Moments

Sold for

ZAR 234 500
Lot 21
  • Maud Sumner; View of Toledo
  • Maud Sumner; View of Toledo
  • Maud Sumner; View of Toledo
  • Maud Sumner; View of Toledo
  • Maud Sumner; View of Toledo

Lot Estimate
ZAR 100 000 - 150 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 234 500

About this Item

South African 1902-1985
View of Toledo


oil on canvas
62 by 51cm excluding frame; 70 by 6,5 by 5cm including frame


Maud Sumner lived between South Africa, France and England at various stages of her life, and works depicting views of these countries, and later of Namibia, are familiar lots at auction. Paintings of scenes in Spain are less so because she seems to have visited the country only once, in 1936. The present lot depicts the city of Toledo with its tumble of honey-coloured stone buildings rising from the Tagus River Valley up to the iconic Alcázar, the fortified stone palace that dominates its surroundings from the highest point on the hill. Sumner was an ardent admirer of the Greek/Spanish late-Renaissance artist known as El Greco (Doménikos Theotokópoulos, 1541–1614) and ‘many books [on the artist] and innumerable postcards of his paintings’ form part of the Sumner archive.1 His famous View of Toledo
(1596–1600) was evidently a favourite, as Sumner painted a copy of it, a work that now resides in the South African state archives. Both El Greco and Sumner, in the present lot, include the distinctive Roman arched bridge, the Puente de Alcántara, but from opposite sides – El Greco from the north and Sumner from the southeast. Using Google 3D maps it is possible to navigate Toledo and its surrounds street by street, at ground level and from above, and determine that Sumner painted her view of the city from the hill where the Toledo Infantry Academy now stands, although that building post-dates Sumner’s visit. The position Sumner was painting from is visible in El Greco’s view, probably the undeveloped rounded hill above the fork in the road. Sumner looks down into the river valley showing the bridge with its tall western tower rising above the Turbinas de Vargas, the city’s old, now ruined, waterworks. She shows the two roads – the Ronda de Juanelo hugging the river, and the Cuesta los Cantos Doce sweeping up the hill.

Sumner’s visit, in early 1936, just predates the Spanish civil war. The palace and surrounding buildings were all but demolished by mine explosions and artillery fire during the Siege of the Alcázar which took place from July to September that year. Although the palace itself was rebuilt after WWII, a visitor to the city today would no longer be able to see the buildings on the hill exactly as they were in Sumner’s day.

1. Frieda Harmsen (1992) Maud Sumner: Painter and Poet, Pretoria: Van Schaik, page 33.

View all Maud Sumner lots for sale in this auction

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