* Three day auction produces sales of over R39 million.
* Auction records set for paintings by Boonzaier, Goodman, Goldblatt, Rose-Innes and others.
* Maggie Laubser portraits sell for up to R2.42 million
* Jewellery sector shows strong growth - 91% of lots sold.
* Confidence in furniture market maintained
The auction generated total sales of over R39 million, of which 77% came from paintings. As expected, paintings by South African artists were highly favoured and whilst the bulk of sales fell comfortably within the published pre-sale estimates, there were some startling exceptions, some of which established new South African auction records.
An example of this was the Robert Gwelo Goodman painting “An Extensive Landscape” which attained R297 000. This work elegantly demonstrates Goodman’s competence with the impressionist, pointillist technique. Ruarc Peffers, Head of Stephan Welz & Co’s Paintings Department and a director of the company, commented after the sale, “the longer you look at the image, the more you see ... the tonal interplay in the mountains and clouds make the subjects recede into an infinite background while the warmer colours of the mid-ground, set off against the cold, dark foreground, result in a scene which seems to go on ad infinitum. Goodman’s highly competent use of his palette contributes to the explanation of the high price achieved.”
Maggie Laubser’s “Woman with a Blue Headscarf” was one of the stars of the auction with competitive bidding to R2.42 million to the applause of the room. The painting itself is a superb and sensitive example from the artist in her prime, demonstrating three aspects for which she is well known, namely the background trees, a water carrier receding into the background and a little cottage. The sitter is pretty and has a contemplative but content expression that makes her and the work all the easier to live with. The desirability factor was further enhanced by the fact that this work, probably from the twenties or thirties, has never before been offered on the open market.
The subsequent lot produced an equally satisfying result. With the final price of R1.43 million being more than three times the estimate, the unique appeal of Maggie Laubser’s “Goose and Arum Lilies” makes the price understandable. It is an energetic and lively painting from her later period, boasting particularly beautiful tones that come to vibrant life under light.
Achieving R1.87 million, J.H.Pierneef’s “Acacia Tree in the Lowveld” is one of his quintessential works. Comprising his famous Acacia tree and typical Lowveld clouds, two of the features for which he ultimately became famous, the work’s serene colouring and deep perspective further add to its value.
A selection of works by Irma Stern performed extremely well. “Pondo Woman” was the subject of a bout of enthusiastic and competitive bidding resulting in a final sale price of R2.86 million.
This is a work generally unknown, being an example of her investigation into representations of the female and also of historical pertinence, considering the political climate at the time. The sitter, in full tribal attire, seems comfortable and noble, not a typical disposition for a portrait of an African from this era. A work in charcoal, “Woman in Tribal Dress and Headscarf” is one of Irma Stern’s most sultry portraits. Irma represents her subject as she was, this translating into a picture of a highly attractive and appealing woman, self confident and intriguing. The portrait reached R220 000, considerably over estimate.
The auction proceeded in similar vein through a broad cross-section of artists, media and individual styles. Two lots by Walter Battiss, “Tahitian Boat” 1 and 2 respectively, achieved amazing results for watercolours by the artist, especially considering their miniscule size. The bright and upbeat images were well received and hotly contested, with the final price of a shade over R60 000 each confirming their desirability. “Hairdo” by Fred Page, achieved R176 000, a new record for the artist, building on the record recently set in Cape Town, further emphasising the unique quality of Fred Page’s work.
A new auction record was set by the sale of Gregoire Boonzaier’s “Malay Quarter” (recto), with “Houses and Trees” (verso), reaching a final sale price of R1.32 million. Ruarc Peffers of Stephan Welz & Co commented, “this is a wonderful result for a great South African artist who, to date, had not quite attained the kind of value he so richly deserves. Possibly one of the best examples of his work, it is unique due to the monumental size of the canvas – not typical for Gregoire. The provenance of the painting is also most interesting as it comes from the collection of the artist’s agent. The fact that this work was his agent’s prized possession, confirms its importance as he, no doubt, had the opportunity of seeing the majority of Gregoire’s work. Who could be in a better position to ascertain which particular canvas was the best?”
Also in record-breaking vein, George Pemba’s “The Aspiring Soccer Players” reached R462 000, a stunning price for a stunning picture. Then “Mother and Child on the Beach”, a beautiful and sensitive work from Eleanor Esmond-White, at R605 000, also set a new record, developing on the one set previously in Cape Town.
The jewellery auction was a resounding success, with a spirited bidding atmosphere carried through from previous sessions. A solitaire diamond ring of 8,397cts sold for R495 000, far exceeding its pre-sale high estimate. The selection of period pieces kept up the tempo, with most selling over their estimates. The outstanding performer was a 19th century late Victorian diamond and garnet pendant which attained R26 400 against its pre-sale high estimate of R7 000. In the contemporary section, a diamond tennis bracelet, with 11cts of diamonds in total, set in platinum, made R264 000, over three times the pre-sale estimate, after spirited bidding from the room and from a barrage of telephone bidders. Of 187 lots on offer, there were only 17 unsold.
The pattern was similar in the silver section, with 80 lots and a mere 5 unsold. Once again the prices went above the estimates in many instances. The highlights included a stunning pair of George III silver tureens by Rebecca Emes and Edward Barnard (London, 1817), estimated pre-sale in the R15 000 – R20 000 bracket and sold for R49 500. Also featured were a William IV silver tankard, probably by Paul Storr (London, 1835) which went for R41 800, substantially over estimate, and a William IV silver basket, also by Paul Storr (London, 1837) selling for R46 200. The overall highlight was a large late Victorian Rose Bowl by Elkington & Co. Ltd (Birmingham, 1900) which achieved a final selling price of R82 500, slightly over double its estimate.
In the watch and clock department there was an equally evident tendency for prices to spiral upwards. An English gold triple case watch estimated at R30 000 sold for R60 500. Similarly, an 18ct Gold Gentleman’s IWC Schaffhausen, Portuguese, stole the show at R77 000 from an estimate of R45 000. A gentleman’s IWC Schaffhausen stainless steel wristwatch performed in like fashion, selling at R66 000 from an estimate of R30 000.
All the carriage clocks exceeded top estimates. A French ormolu-mounted boulle bracket clock, was estimated pre-sale at a high of R20 000 and sold for R55 000, while another French ormolu-mounted boulle clock, estimated at R15 000, reached a final sale price of R44 000.
The final auction session focused on furniture, which maintained the momentum of the entire three day affair, demonstrating that confidence in the sector remains high. The front runner was a French Louis XVl style gilt-metal mounted mahogany and parquetry vitrine, c.1880, with the achievement of R165 000 being most encouraging. Equally gratifying was a George ll mahogany bureau bookcase, mid 18th century, which sold for R77 000 from its high estimate of R50 000. A George lll style mahogany bookcase cabinet reached R66 000, double its estimate. An intriguing South African brass bound stinkwood despatch box, c.1799, achieved R35 200. The provenance of this lot was historically significant, with part of the engraving on its presentation plaque reading “As a Reward for Services done to the British Government.”
In summary, the three days of the sale yielded a total turnover of over R39 million, of which some R30 million came from the South African Paintings category.