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Gem of a Painting evokes Malay Quarter


  1 January 2013     Archived


We know that Wenning painted this charming scene between 16th and 28th July 1917. In correspondence between the artist and D C Boonzaier dated 28 July 1917, the latter indicated that since Wenning had moved into his new room in the city twelve days previously, he had produced two small paintings of the Malay quarter of which this is one. (i)

In Washday, Malay Quarter, Cape Town, the old man with white beard, green robe and red fez in the foreground not only establishes the Islamic identity of the area but the colours with which he is portrayed are echoed in subtler variations throughout the painting. The Prussian blue, taupe and salmon façades are all enlivened by the use of a madder red to define the architectural details of doors, posts and window frames. The teal tones in the road and foreground wall complement the deep red details. All are rendered with vigorous brushwork all the more astonishing for its ability to capture minute detail.

Working from a dark ground, large areas of light colour are applied without abutting, allowing the ground to show through and read as black lines or texture. Demarcated by black lines, the colours take on a bright, jewel-like quality resembling stained glass windows. Consequently this small gem of a painting is brought to life with animated detail and glowing colour, allowing it to punch way above its weight.

Text by Emma Bedford, Senior Paintings Specialist

Lot 481
Pieter Wenning
Washday, Malay Quarter, Cape Town
Oil on canvas
24,5 x 19,5 cm
R300 000 – 400 000

i) J du P Scholtz, DC Boonzaier en Pieter Wenning: Verslag van ‘n Vriendskap, Tafelberg, Cape Town, 1973, pages 48-49.


2013 Press Archive

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