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The most distinguished Arab at Strauss & Co's June auction

  22 March 2012     Archived

Following the record-breaking sale last year of Irma Sterns Two Arabs for R21 166 000, the highest price ever achieved for a painting in South Africa, Strauss & Cos 11 June auction in Johannesburg will feature another extraordinary painting from this celebrated artist.

Since her first visit to Zanzibar in 1939, Irma Stern was captivated by its peoples and cultures. In passages from her book on Zanzibar published in 1948, Stern makes several pertinent observations:

‘The most distinguished Arab – “the truly wise and religious father” – is dressed in a pure white robe with a white turban around his white skull cap’.

Describing those attending a reception hosted by the Sultan of Zanzibar, Stern wrote, ‘White bearded figures belonging to another age – a thousand years or more back; gold glistening on their coats, silk woven into their rainbow-coloured turbans, artfully woven’.

Light, peace and tranquillity radiate from this remarkable portrait of wisdom. With incomparable mastery, Stern has chosen to focus all attention on this single Arab, his contemplative face infused with a gentle kindness and bathed in glowing light.

Purchased directly from the artist by the present owner over 70 years ago, Arab has been in the same family since and has never before appeared on the market. It is still in its original Zanzibar frame embellished with flowers and foliage that are intended to invoke good fortune.

Irma Stern
signed and dated 1939, in the original Zanzibar frame
oil on canvas
66,5 by 64,5cm
R7 000 000 – 9000 000



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