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Strauss & Co offers two exceptional single-owner collections of decorative arts

  13 March 2019     Archived

Strauss & Co’s forthcoming March sale in Cape Town includes a fine selection of Chinese and Japanese ceramics and works art, English silverware and Cape furniture from two distinguished single-owner collections. The impeccable consignments from the Dr J.R. and Mary Strong Collection and Dr Johan Bolt Collection showcase artisanal traditions from various cultural epochs. Collectively, they evidence the role of passion and connoisseurship in building a collection.

Dr John Strong and Mrs Mary Strong, British-born and educated medical practitioners who immigrated to Rhodesia before settling in South Africa in 1977, collected widely. Strauss & Co is proud to offer a selection of their Chinese ceramics, carved jade pieces and snuff bottles, as well as Japanese satsumaware and carved netsuke, together with various pieces of English silverware.

Standout Chinese works from the Strong Collection include a petite jade carving of a vase in the shape of a magnolia bloom (estimate R20 000 – 25 000) and a recumbent female dog with its pup (estimate R12 000 – 15 000). An intricately carved dragon carp vase (estimate R15 000 – 20 000) is one of six larger Chinese jade pieces also on offer. Among the 21 lots of snuff bottles is an agate piece featuring a carved duck with a lotus in its mouth (estimate R10 000 – 15 000).

A discriminating collector, Dr Strong was well acquainted with such London dealerships as Spink and Son, Stanley Gibbons and the Fine Art Society. He also patronised Gallery Medici in Kalk Bay, founded by artist Albert Newall, from whom he acquired many of his finest pieces. Strong was particularly fond of Japanese netsuke. Significant pieces from the 41 lots include a rare ivory miniature from the late eighteenth century depicting a bearded Dutchman (estimate R9 000 – 12 000) and another portraying the Japanese storm gods, Raiden and Futen (estimate R12 000 – 15 000).

The Strong Collection of English silverware is characterised by the owners’ penchant for well-known silversmiths. Notable pieces include a George IV two-handled wine cooler by Benjamin Smith III dated 1825 (estimate R80 000 – 100 000) and a pair of George III candlesticks made in 1762 by John Parker I and Edward Wakelin (estimate R30 000 – 35 000).

Dr Johan Bolt started collecting Cape furniture in the early 1980s, initially focussing on yellowwood and stinkwood pieces. The Bolt Collection of Cape furniture, Cape brass and copperware grew to include many rare and elusive items, among them an early eighteenth-century Tulbagh stinkwood chair (estimate R40 000 – 60 000) that he waited three decades to acquire. The Bolt Collection is distinguished by its faultless provenance. A Cape Louis XV-style stinkwood armchair from 1770 (estimate R40 000 – 45 000) is an apex piece and was acquired in 1997 from the collection of Herbert Prins. Similarly, a harlequin set of six Cape neoclassical stinkwood side chairs (estimate R120 000 – 150 000) four of which originally acquired at the 1998 sale of important Cape furniture from the collection of Dr Gavin Watkins.

“Provenance is a key factor in attributing value to a lot,” said Vanessa Phillips, Strauss & Co’s joint managing director. “Many of the pieces in the fine Bolt Collection derive from earlier important collections and are in themselves pinnacle examples of their kind.” The quality and refinement of Johan Bolt’s collection is widely acknowledged. Two lots – an important south-western Cape neoclassical settee made from of stinkwood and yellowwood (estimate R200 000 – 300 000) and pair of rare and important Queen Anne-style stinkwood side chairs from 1730–60 (estimate R100 000 – 200 000) – were exhibited at the Gemeentemuseum in Den Haag, Holland, in 2002.

A fastidious collector who prizes research, Johan Bolt is philosophical about his role. “Many of my pieces are three hundred years old,” observes Bolt. “We are just the temporary custodians.” The sale contains various examples of Chinese export blue-and-white dishes dating from the 18th century and a rare early Republican Chinese famille-rose bottle vase decorated with peaches (estimate R40 000 – 50 000). Japanese highlights include a large lacquered, ivory and Shibayama-inlaid footed charger (estimate R50 000 – 60 000) and a Satsuma bowl beautifully painted with a multitude of butterflies (estimate R12 000 – 15 000).

Noteworthy silverware pieces include an Edward VII two-handled presentation tray by Charles Stuart Harris (estimate R40 000 – 60 000) and two stylish flatware services from Georg Jensen. Designed by Johan Rohde, the ‘Acorn’ pattern flatware service is from the 1930s (estimate R90 000 – 100 000), while the earlier Cactus pattern flatware service from 1930 was designed by Gundorph Albertus (estimate R80 000 – 100 000).

The 400-lot sale of decorative arts contains furniture pieces owned by artist the late Cynthia Villet-Gardner: a Gerrit Rietveld red and blue Model 763 armchair (estimate R20 000 – 30 000), a Charles and Ray Eames white leather and rosewood-veneered Model 670 chair and Model 671 ottoman (estimate R20 000 – 30 000), as well as a six-panel plywood and canvas folding screen (R8 000 – 10 000).

Works from the Strong and Bolt collections will be on view at the Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town from 15 to 17 March, between 10am and 5pm. The sale will commence at 10am on Monday, 18 March at the same venue on. For further details visit

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