Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art

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Anton van Wouw; The Accused
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Lot 226

South African 1862-1945
The Accused
inscribed with the artist's name and bears the foundry mark
bronze with a golden brown patina, on a wooden base; cast by the Massa foundry, Rome
height: 29cm excluding base, 35cm including base

Sold for R 900 000
Including Buyer's Premium and VAT R 1 024 200

Estimate R 700 000 - 1 000 000


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'Presented to J.W. Lawrance, Esq. by Compound & Hospital Officials, Mine Police & Friends on Crown Mines as a mark of their esteem' inscribed on a plaque adhered to the base.

The Accused – or The Basuto Witness, as it has also been titled – is one of Van Wouw’s most poignant and beautiful portraits. It shows a testifying mineworker, his arms close to his sides, his eyelids heavy and weary, his brow deeply furrowed, and his expression one of bewilderment and unease. There is no way of knowing on which side of the law the mineworker stands, but despite his obvious anxiety, he remains proud and dignified.

The present casting is an exquisite example, and it would have come out of the Massa foundry after 1936. The frayed edges of the figure’s makeshift hessian vest are sharp and hard to the touch, the lines of his lips and cheekbones keen and graceful, and his skin supple and unblemished.

The sitter for this work also appears in The Skapu Player (1907) and The Dagga Smoker (1907).


Esmé Berman (1983) Art and Artists of South Africa, Cape Town: AA Balkema. Another cast illustrated in black and white on page 344.

University of Pretoria (1981) Anton van Wouw en die van Wouwhuis, Durban: Butterworth & Co. Another cast  illustrated in black and white on page 29, Fig. A18.

J Ernst (2006) Anton van Wouw: 'n Biographie. Vanderbijl Park: Corals. Another cast illustrated in black and white on page 70.



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