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Own a piece of Cape heritage

  7 March 2016     Archived

Treasures once part of the historic Vergelegen estate in Somerset West will be sold by Strauss & Co in their much anticipated auction on 14 March.

Randlord Sir Lionel Phillips and his wife Lady Florence, a formidable Edwardian hostess and tireless patron of the arts, resided at Vergelegen from 1917 to 1941 transforming the dilapidated estate into a floral and cultural treasure trove. Her discerning eye coupled with her husband's unlimited funds, allowed her to assemble a fine collection of antiques which were sold at auction in 1942, following her death. The homestead and many of the contents were purchased by Punch Barlow, whose father founded Barloworld, and his wife Cynthia. Cynthia, who was as devoted to Vergelegen as Lady Phillips had been, added her own treasures, thus maintaining the tradition of this fine residence.

It is indeed a great privilege for Strauss & Co, South Africa's leading auction house, to be offering pieces of such illustrious provenance and historic significance which should attract the attention of collectors countrywide. The top lot is a an imposing 18th century Cape stinkwood and satinwood armoire with silver mounts (estimate R600 000 - 800 000). It is hoped that the result will set a new record for a piece of Cape furniture, surpassing Strauss & Co's existing record set in 2009 currently standing at R1 million.

The pair of Cape Neo-Classical stinkwood, yellowwood, amboyna-veneered and inlaid side tables (R400 000 - 500 000) should attract keen interest by serious collectors of Cape furniture as it is the first time such an important pair has appeared at auction. Formerly considered to be Dutch, these rare tables were identified as being from the Cape by their indigenous woods.

Described in Furniture of the Cape by Michael Baraitser and Anton Obholzer as "the finest example of this type we have seen" and "among the most elegant pieces of furniture made at the Cape", is a Cape Neo-Classical stinkwood gateleg table formerly positioned in the library at Vergelegen (estimate R80 000 - 100 000).

Another highlight from the collection is the pair of impressive 18th century blue and white jars and covers from the Qing dynasty (estimate R70 000 - 80 000), previously displayed in the voorkamer. These were purchased by the Barlows at the auction of the Contents of Vergelegen for 250 guineas.


An impressive pair of Chinese blue and white jars and covers, Qing Dynasty, 18th century

R70 000 - 80 000


A Cape stinkwood, satinwood and silver-mounted armoire, 18th century

R600 000 - 800 000

The sale also features a collection of twenty-two lots of Cape silver, possibly the rarest piece being a Cape silver tessie-on-stand by Gerhardus Lotter (estimate R200 000 - 250 000). Over the past seven years, Strauss & Co has sold almost R6 million worth of Cape silver, a passion of the late Stephan Welz, former Managing Director of Strauss & Co and author of the definitive book on the subject.

A good selection of English furniture and silver, decorative arts and jewellery and a cornucopia of some of the best examples of South African art, from a rare casein by JH Pierneef to an early tapestry by Athi-Patra Ruga, will also come under the hammer.

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