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Lady Anne Barnard water colours on auction

Lady Anne Barnard Water Colours On Auction

It is with great pride that Stephan Welz & Co debuts two important and exquisitely executed water colours by Lady Anne Barnard from her momentous visit to the Cape of Good Hope during the First British Occupation (1795-1801). Rarely on the market, these 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 with a handwritten letter from Lady Anne Barnard to Henry Dundas in 1801.

The two watercolours give us a rare glimpse into the lives of individual women from the underclasses of the Cape Colony at the end of the 18th Century. In ground-breaking new research, historian Tracey Randle has traced the origins and possible identities of the subjects depicted in Lots  505 and 506. Her article is included in this special focus on Lady Anne Barnard.

The aristocratic Anne Lindsay was a leading figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, and the most prolific letter writer, diarist and recorder of any woman of the age. Well connected and witty she was sought after as a sparkling presence in the salons of Georgian society. Her circle included the illustrious presence of The Prince of Wales, Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, Henry Dundas, Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough among others. Her independence was considered scandalous at the time, and eventually in her early forties she capitulated by marrying beneath her in both age and class. Twelve years her junior, her new husband Andrew Barnard – whom she lovingly nurtured and encouraged – secured a prestigious post as Colonial Secretary of the Cape of Good Hope in 1797. Acting as the first lady of the Cape Colony, Lady Anne Barnard’s African adventures and achievements became legendry. Almost two centuries after her death her legacy continues to make an impact.

Anne was raised by a noble and free thinking father, The Earl of Crawford and Balcarres in a secluded castle on the coast of Fife, Scotland. James Lindsay married a woman forty years his junior, and at the advanced age of sixty, welcomed Anne into the world as the first girl of eleven children. Sadly, Anne found her mother to be remote – worn down by the burden of child bearing – yet it was her affectionate and bookish father who encouraged her intellectual curiosity and creative gifts.  Favoured with beautiful looks, the youthful Anne rejected at least twelve proposals of marriage and the continuous – and unsolicited – advances of older predatory men. It has been suggested [1]that Anne may not have been able to bear children as the result of a sexually transmitted disease, incurable at the time. However, this did not deter her maternal feelings, and possibly motivated her empathetic and compassionate concerns, an attitude generally absent from other contemporary accounts of life at the Cape of Good Hope at the turn of the 19thcentury.

Lady Anne was a prolific recorder of life at the Cape – in letters (one of which is on [i]sale), diaries and of course her acclaimed visual record of sketches, drawings and watercolours as well as a few rare oils. She differed from contemporary colonial male artists, in that her work was produced without future publication or official sanction in mind. Her drawings were personal and intimate, capturing scenes from the domestic and social life was part of at the time. Drawings were quickly sketched at the dinner table, from her quarters at the Castle, in a carriage oren plein air. She was unusually curious about the wellbeing and origins of the servants and slaves around her. In this way her watercolours of people reveal an empathy absent from the work of other recorders – such as her neighbour at the Castle, Samuel Daniel.

The famous image of the so-called Black Madonna exists in two very similar preparatory sketched versions[ii] of the completed coloured watercolour  on offer. The identity of the young Indian slave recorded as Theresa by the artist, is depicted in a maternal scene nursing her master van Reenen’s lastborn child. Tracey Randall in her article, has identified the child as the baby of the van Reenen family of Ganzekraal farm, near Darling, Cape.  The tenderness of this portrait is underscored by the artist’s comments that she was able to capture the sleeping infant and young nurse in a leisurely manner as they dozed off [2]

The second maternal portrait Mother and child depicts a self-confident and smiling mother gazing directly at the viewer. Dressed in the regal sheep skin cloak and beaded adornment of a Khoi chieftainess, she was sketched at Ganzekraal on the same day in 1799 as Black Madonna. This was recorded by Lady Anne in her diaries and subsequently highlighted by Tracey Randle.[iii]The full-length miniature vignette depicts a joyful infant on the shoulders of her mother reaching for a dried gourd rattle, set against a distant landscape, reminiscent of the West Cape Coast.

These exquisite renderings now take their place amongst a small groups of works on paper selected for a local South African[iv]audience from Lady Anne Barnard’s profuse archive.  Originally part of the Bibliotheca Lindesiana held by the Earls of Crawford and Balcarres in their stately home, the archive has recently been transferred to the National Library of Edinburgh in Scotland.

The arresting watercolours of life at the Cape and her adventurous journeys to the interior have never been published nor publicly exhibited in compliance with Lady Anne Barnard’s express wishes.  The significance and value of these exceptionally rare and re-discovered images is invaluable to a new reading of the South African past.

Carol Kaufmann
[1]Taylor, Stephen, Defiance The life and Choices of Lady Anne Barnard.2016.Faber &Faber, London.
[2]See Barker, Nicolas. Lady Anne Barnard’s Watercolours and Sketches: Glimpses of the Cape of Good Hope. Fernwood Press. 2009.
[i]One small oil painting in particular stands out as it is a self-portrait of her bathing au naturelat her beloved Paradise, presently housed in the William Fehr Collection at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town.
[ii]in the Iziko Social History Collections and the Balcarres Collection
[iii]We are most grateful to Tracey Randall (PHD Candidate) for allowing us to publish her ground- breaking research in this catalogue.
[iv]Seven portraits annotated with the names of local individuals were presented in 1972 to the South African Cultural History Museum (now the Iziko Social History Collection).


  • Arnold, Marion.Women and Art in South Africa.1996. David Phillip Publishers, Cape Town.
  • Barker, Nicolas. Lady Anne Barnard’s Watercolours and
  • Sketches: Glimpses of the Cape of Good Hope. Fernwood Press. 2009. Watercolours and Sketches of Lady Anne Barnard.
  • Taylor, Stephen, Defiance The life and Choices of Lady Anne Barnard. 2016. Faber &Faber, London.

By descent. A letter gifting the works accompanies the watercolour of The Black Madonna.

Our gratitude is due to Tracey Randle ( PHD Candidate), Ariadne Petoussis  (The Vineyard) , Esther Esmyol
 (iziko Social History Collections), Melanie Geustyn ( Special Collections, South African Library)  and others for  their inspirational information, ideas  and assistance with the presentation of Lady Anne Barnard’s  watercolours.


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