Important South African Paintings, Furniture, Silver, Ceramics and Glass

Live Auction, 7 March 2011


Sold for

ZAR 44 560
Lot 221
  • Moses Kottler; Maquette for

Lot Estimate
ZAR 20 000 - 30 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 44 560

About this Item

South African 1892-1977
Maquette for "Man and Woman"
bronze with rich brown patina
height: 51cm


Kottler's cement fondue relief of Man and Woman for which this is a maquette, commissioned for the Population Registration Building in Pretoria, was completed in 1957.   A photograph of the work published in Die Transvaler in May 1957 started a public outcry ultimately leading to the Minister of Labour having to instruct that the work be removed.   It was given to the William Humphreys Art Gallery in Kimberley where it is still to be seen.

For various reasons, including poor photography that exaggerated the perceived sexuality of the bodies, the sculpture achieved instant notoriety and has become one of the most widely written about works of art in the history of South Africa.

In her monograph on the sculptor, Ute Ben Yosef explains that Moses Kottler’s ill-fated relief of Man and Woman:
... had to be removed for reasons of ‘indecency’... The relief, designed for the western gable, was to symbolize the work performed in the building. It depicts a youthful couple, symbolizing the young South Africa, standing side by side, gazing upwards towards the South African flag. The man clasps the woman’s hand above the breast and with his other hand holds her wrist. ... They stand firmly on muscular legs set astride to symbolize the strength of the young nation.i

Alexis Preller was one of the artists who came to Kottler’s defence, describing the sculpture as embodying “an ideal of man capable of holding onto the infinite fearlessly and with hope”.ii

i. Ute Ben Yosef, The Graven Image: The Life and Works of Moses Kottler, Perskor, Cape Town and Johannesburg, 1989, p 47.
ii. Pretoria News, 1.8.1957.


Ute Ben Yosef, The Graven Image, The Life and Work of Moses Kottler, Johannesburg, 1989, pp 29, 30, 47 and 101, illustrated

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