Press Office

Millions for minors, miners and minions on Strauss Summer Auction

  3 December 2012     Archived

One of Irma Sterns most compelling portraits ever to come to the market will be offered at Strauss & Cos upcoming auction to be held on 4 February at the Vineyard Hotel in Newlands. Malay Girl, painted in 1938 and estimated to fetch between R10 000 000 15 000 000, provides extraordinary insights into the curious life of a child. The girl looks directly at the viewer, engaging us in a way that is neither challenging nor retiring. She meets the viewers gaze on equal terms. Rather than infantilising the child, the artist has provided a portrait of a thoughtful individual.

Stern makes imaginative use of warm, seductive colours like tangerine, cyclamen, yellow and maroon. The bold colour blocking and the pink hair ribbon are apparently simple yet highly sophisticated compositional devices that focus attention on the emotional heart of the painting – her large, captivating eyes. These formal elements remind us why Stern’s paintings are unique and highly sought-after and why she remains unparalleled as an artist. The South African auction world has seen no comparable portrait since Strauss & Co sold Stern’s Arab in June 2012 for R17 267 000.

Anton van Wouw’s Miner with a Hand Drill, dated 1911 and estimated at R1 600 000 – 2 200 000, is a rare and remarkable example of the sculptor at his best. Few castings exist of this large bronze measuring 60 centimetres in height, as even in Van Wouw’s lifetime its price was exceptionally high according to Professor Dr Alexander Duffey. This bronze was cast at the G. Massa Foundry in Rome under the sculptor’s close supervision. The Pretoria Art Museum owns an example of similar quality cast at the Nisini Foundry in Rome.

Connoisseurs recognise the dramatic differences between these bronzes cast by the best Italian craftsmen and those local and posthumous casts of inferior quality. Van Wouw’s sculptural skill is apparent here in the accurate anatomical detail of the figure which was originally modelled in the nude. Its exquisite light brown patina and highly polished surface contrast with the roughly hewn rock face that surrounds it. Working with hand-held implements in the flickering light of a candle, Miner with a Hand Drill provides a strong social statement on mining and labour in South Africa at the turn of the century.

Figures in a Landscape by Walter Battiss (estimated at R1 600 000 – 2 200 000) is exciting much interest as paintings on this scale and of comparable quality are seldom seen at auction. Battiss’s Bathers, sold by Strauss & Co in March 2010 for R1 336 800, is similar in size and treatment. Both display the technical skill and sensual subject matter that have made him one of the most popular artists at auction today. Across a painterly surface of warm tones flecked with white are gathered serried rows of African people busy with their daily activities of carrying, collecting, cooking and chatting. The even distribution of figures across the picture plane owes much to Battiss’s pioneering research into San rock art paintings. Battiss’s African Figures broke all auction records for this artist when it sold for R2 562 200 at Strauss & Co’s Johannesburg sale in November 2012.

The discovery of two exceptional paintings by Maggie Laubser, one of which was acquired more than 80 years ago and has been cherished by generations of the same family, is creating great interest amongst art lovers and collectors. Laubser’s Portrait of a Girl with Geese (estimated to fetch between R1 500 000 – 2 000 000) and Still Life with Poppies (R350 000 – 500 000) are both examples of her early and most sought-after works.

Also included in the February auction are rare paintings by Hugo Naudé and Pieter Wenning, a bold Wolf Kibel oil for the connoisseur, unusual paintings by Stanley Pinker, early works by Penny Siopis including one from the History Paintings Series most of which are now in museums, a William Kentridge drawing and paintings by younger artists who are making waves on the local and international art scene such as Matt Hindley and Kudzanai Chiurai.

For purposes of quoting, the text on the works of art was written by Emma Bedford, Senior Art Specialist, Strauss & Co.



Monday 4 February 2013
Jewellery at 11am
Furniture, Silver, Ceramics & Glass at 2pm
South African & International Art at 5pm
Important South African and International Art at 8pm
The Vineyard Hotel, Conference Centre, Newlands

From Friday 1 to Sunday 3 February from 10am to 5pm
Conducted by Stephan Welz and Emma Bedford
Sunday 3 February at 11am
+27 (0) 21 683 6560
Mobile +27 (0) 78 044 8185
Fax +27 (0) 21 683 6560

Catalogues are available and can be purchased at R120 online or from our offices.

Media Liaison:
Bina Genovese, Executive Director +27 (0) 21 683 6560 / +27 (0) 78 044 8185


2012 Press Archive

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