A magisterial floral still life by Irma Stern, South Africa’s foremost painter, is the highlight of Strauss & Co’s bountiful crop of offerings at its October 15 spring sale in Cape Town.
Painted in 1947, Dahlias (estimated at between R8 to R12 million) is a peak-period Stern depicting a favoured flower and additionally claims an impeccable provenance.
Originally owned by renowned art collectors Ben and Cecilia Jaffe, Stern’s brilliantly coloured oil was acquired by noted Cape Town collector Count Luccio Labia in 1994 at a sale handled by auctioneer Stephan Welz, who in 2009 helped establish Strauss & Co. Part of a consignment of 22 paintings from the Labia Family Collection, Dahlias exhibits Stern’s masterful brushwork and authoritative handling of paint. Dahlias were a recurrent subject
in Stern’s paintings from the 1930s and 40s. The artist produced five such still lifes featuring these sumptuous cut flowers, of which this painting is the fifth.
Dahlias has been characterised by noted Stern scholar Marion Arnold as an “exuberant composition” that bursts “beyond the confines of the frame” (Irma Stern: A Feast for the Eye, 1995). The intersection of quality and provenance is a hallmark of Strauss & Co’s October sale. The catalogue includes 22 paintings released from the Labia Family Collection, as well as 20 works in various media from the Peter and Regina Strack Collection, notably three rare oils by Adolph Jentsch.
Count Luccio Labia, who passed away in November 2016, was well known for his judicious taste, both in art and cars. The son of Count Natale Teodato Labia and Princess Ida Labia, nee Robinson, daughter of South African mining magnate and art collector Sir Joseph Benjamin Robinson (1840-1929), his art collection included works by South African, European and British artists.
Aside from the excellent Stern, other notable works released from the Labia Family Collection include an important landscape painting from 1918 by Pieter Wenning. The Yellow House: Bishopscourt in Winter (estimate R500 000 – R700 000) executed on an overcast day in August 1918. British modernist Ivon Hitchens’s Felled Trees (estimate R500 000 – R700 000) was painted in 1946 and originates from the same period as a work held in the Tate Collection.
German-born Peter Strack immigrated to Namibia in 1950 and was a partner in the architectural firm Stauch & Partners. He began honing his skills as an artist and collector under the tutelage of Jentsch and principally collected 20th-century Namibian art, notably works by Jentsch, Fritz Krampe and John Muafangejo. Highlights include Vlei on Farm Teufelsbach (estimate R600 000 – R800 000), which offers a verdant view of the Otjihavera River, and Ibenstein, SW Afrika (estimate R600 000 – R700 000), a masterfully achieved night scene in grey.
“Artworks owned by esteemed and visionary collectors are sought after by newer generations of collectors,” says Bina Genovese, joint managing director of Strauss & Co.
When and where:
- The public can view this important work, along with other works mentioned, from October 12 to 14, from 10am to 5pm.