Important South African and International Art

Live Auction, 7 November 2016

Evening Sale

Sold for

ZAR 818 496
Lot 233
  • Alexis Preller; Archaic Sandals

Lot Estimate
ZAR 200 000 - 300 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 818 496

About this Item

South African 1911-1975
Archaic Sandals

signed and dated '48

oil on canvas laid down on board
25,5 by 35,5cm excluding frame


Preller completed a series of evocative paintings of a pair of sandals. He uses them successively as still life objects in relation to beautifully decorated cloths, mangoes and other talisman-like objects collected during his extended period on Mahé in the Seychelles between October 1948 and February 1949. During this time he travelled between the beautiful Indian Ocean islands, and lived and painted near the beach at Beau Vallon.

Many artists have painted their shoes as a form of self-portrait or as a social comment on their daily lives, as in the case of Van Gogh, whose work Preller greatly admired. The heavy, closed, workmanlike shoes that Van Gogh painted alluded to the oppressive conditions of farmers in the fields of the Boriage where he ministered to the poor. Preller's exquisitely crafted Indian or Arabic style sandals, however, which were worn on the beaches of the east African islands, allude in some way to his distancing himself from the constraints of the conservative and oppressive environment from which he came. Preller's sandals evoke a sense of carefreeness, direct evidence of Preller's change of mindset in the new context. The sandals in all these still lives, depicted in golden hues, are handcrafted with woven checkerboard detailing and red decorative embellishments, and stitched with geometric precision around their perimeters. All these distinctive features are also clearly evident in the Johannesburg Art Gallery version [Figure 1], and in the Standard Bank collection painting entitled Sandals, where they seem to float like boats on the decorative east African cloths.

In this work, Archaic Sandals (1948), the same pair of sandals is fastidiously painted on to a fine cotton duck stretched over board. What is particularly unusual in this painting is the intrusion of the human presence. An almost biblical foot wearing a sandal strides into the right hand side of the picture with a pharaonic-like authority. The foot has stepped off a woven palm mat onto an aquamarine surface that suggests fine sand compacted by a thin film of sea water. Traces of cord or seaweed are caught below the foot.

In the true spirit of Preller, in this series of unusual still lives, he is able to evoke a sense of the idyllic, the poetic, and conjure majestic qualities, all from a modest pair of local East African sandals.


The Collection of the Late Mrs Liselotte Hardebeck.

Purchased by the late owners from Sotheby Parke-Bernet South Africa, 1979.

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