Treasured paintings on the market

    Treasured paintings on the market

    An evocative Irma Stern painting that was bought from the artist and paid for in monthly instalments by a young actress as a gift for her father 80 years ago makes its first appearance on the open market during a Stephan Welz & Co auction in Cape Town on July 1 and 2.

    The painting, Arab Dhows, was purchased in 1940 by Barbara Macleod for 12 guineas, which she paid to the artist – scrupulously, according to Irma Stern’s records – in four instalments. The work has an estimated value of R700 000 to R900 000.

    Irma Stern (1894-1966) painted Arab Dhows in 1939 at the start of what is regarded as her golden period. This was marked by intense productivity during the 1940s when she spent much of her time in Zanzibar and became energised and excited by the exotic life she encountered there.

    She was particularly enthralled by Arab dhows and the exotic goods their traders brought to the region.

    The painting was part of a 1940 exhibition in Johannesburg where Macleod bought the work for her father, Lewis Rose Macleod, then editor of The Rand Daily Mail.

    Other works likely to attract strong interest from collectors include two watercolours and a hand-written letter by Lady Anne Barnard (1750-1825).

    This fiercely independent Scottish aristocrat came to the Cape of Good Hope in 1797 as the wife of the colonial secretary of the Cape colony. Her African adventures, recorded in her diaries, drawings and paintings, became legendary.

    The two, 220-year-old watercolours give us a rare glimpse into the lives of individual women from the under classes of the Cape Colony at the end of the 18th century, and they have been brought to life through groundbreaking new research by historian Tracey Randle, who has managed to trace their origins and possible identities by digging deep into the archives.

    The paintings on auction, titled Black Madonna and Khoi Woman, are intimate depictions of a young slave woman, known as Theresa, nursing the infant of her master Jacob van Reenen, and of a woman dressed in the regal sheepskin cloak and beaded adornment of a Khoi chieftainess.

    The paintings reflect Lady Anne’s keen interest in the indigenous people, servants and slaves around her and reveal empathy absent from most other recorders of her times.

    The works are accompanied by unique documentary provenance and have been in the possession of the descendants of Lady Anne Barnard from 1966. They are offered for the first time in over 50 years with a handwritten letter from Lady Anne Barnard to Henry Dundas in 1801.

    Each painting goes on auction with an estimated value of R50 000 to R80 000.

    Two works by Gerard Sekoto (1913-1993) will be on the auction, perhaps the most striking being his Head of an African Woman with its predominantly blue colouring, which has an estimated value of R600 000 to R900 000.

    Another Sekoto painting, Market Scene, on auction has an estimated value of R700 000 to R900 000.


    • The Stephan Welz & Co Fine Art and Design auction takes place on July 1 and 2 July at the Old Mutual Conference Centre, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town.
    • Viewings for this auction will take place from Friday June 28 until Sunday June 30 from 10am to 5pm (jewellery is packed away at 4.30pm).
    • Walkabout with Anton Welz on Saturday June 29 at 11am.
    • For more information visit or contact 021-794-6461 or e-mail

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