NINE HAND COLOURED PENCIL SKETCHES
by J.W. [J. White]
signed with artist's initials, c1845 , foxing, framed
1. Untitled (plate 2: Herdsman), 'VII' behind window mount, 21 by 16,5cm
2. Fingoo (plate 11: Bechuana Woman), 'XXVIII', 23,5 by 17cm
3. Kafir (plate 16: An Old Amakoora Caffre), 21,5 by 16,5cm
4. Untitled (plate 26: A Malay Woman), 21,5 by 16,5cm
5. Coolie (plate 30: A Negro Mozambique), 'XXVII', 24 by 16,5cm
6. Bechuana Woman (Mantatee) Playing on the Jomoa, (plate 35: A Hottentot Musician), 21 by 17cm
7. Zoolo Warrior Chief (plate 40: Matabele), 20,5 by 15,5cm
8. Bushman, (plate 41: A Bosjesman or Bushman), 21 by 15cm
9. Bushwoman, (plate 42: A Hottentot), 19 by 16cm
SKETCHES OF SOME OF THE VARIOUS CLASSES AND TRIBES INHABITING THE COLONY OF THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE AND THE INTERIOR OF SOUTHERN AFRICA, WITH A BRIEF ACCOUNT DESCRIPTIVE OF THE MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF EACH
by J.W. [J. White]
London: W Robt and Lowes Dickenson, MDCCCLI 
4to, 41 tinted lithographs (plate 7 absent as issued) + 21 text pp, original cloth rebacked in leather; some soiling on eps, light to more extensive foxing and tanning throughout, edges of preface, plate 2, 22 and 41 repaired with tissue backing; bookplate: Harvey
Previously owned by John and C Gertrude E Leveson-Gower. They were in South Africa in 1847.
Sold Strauss & Co, Cape Town, 16 March 2015, Lot 388
The mystery surrounding the identity of the artist J.W. intrigued scholars, librarians and collectors for many years. In his book, Pictorial Africana, Gordon-Brown (1975) details the different paths of inquiry over the years, as well as the dead ends and finally, an unexpected discovery.
A fascinating clue was a reference in the Cape Town Mail of 4 October 1851, which refuted the claim by the publisher’s of “Sketches of Some of the Various Classes and Tribes Inhabiting the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope” (offered as part of this lot) that the lithographs in the book were based on watercolours by a gentleman resident in the Cape for many years. The editor called the book a “curious literary fabrication” and that the actual artist was “a colonial amateur now in Government service who was formerly accustomed to send his sketches to booksellers for sale”. According to the paper the artist was “not a little astonished at the use which some unscrupulous purchaser has made of his productions” (AN&N, 1972). However, the elusive J.W. was not identified in the article.
The major breakthrough occurred when a London lawyer showed Gordon-Brown a folder of watercolours in 1972. The watercolours were signed with the familiar J.W., but all indications, from the red wax to the provenance, were that the folder was the original wrapping used when the watercolours were purchased. And on the wrapping was written “A Collection of characteristic 24 sketches by J. White, Esq., Cape of Good Hope”.
Africana Notes and News. Vol 20 No 1, p 17-19, Johannesburg: Africana Museum, 1972
Africana Notes and News. Vol 15 No 7, p 306 - 314, Johannesburg: Africana Museum, 1963
Gordon-Brown, A. Pictorial Africana, p 240, Cape Town: A A Balkema, 1975
Kennedy, R.F. Johannesburg Africana Museum Catalogue of Pictures (W.J.), Volume 5, T-Y, P103, Johannesburg: Africana Museum, 1968
Kennedy, R.F. Africana Museum Catalogue of Prints, Volume 2, W2-43, Johannesburg: Africana Museum, 1975