‘Meditation, Zanzibar’ by Irma Stern
‘Meditation, Zanzibar’ by Irma Stern – estimated at R15m- 20m (approximately £800,000-1m) at Strauss.

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The group includes three portraits by the Grande Dame of the South African art market, Irma Stern (1894-1966).

One of the two sources is the collection of Louis Shill, a former government minister and investor who was the founder of the Sage Fund, which introduced the concept of unit trusts in South Africa in 1965. Shill was introduced to art collecting by his wife Mavis and, from the 1970 onwards, together they amassed a collection without the help of art advisers.

The leading lot among the four works in the consignment is Meditation, Zanzibar by Stern which will have an estimate of R15m-20m (approximately £800,000-1m).

The work dates from the first of the artist’s two trips to Zanzibar in 1939 and it was typical of her portraits of languid and melancholy subjects. Stern was keenly aware of the second-class status of women in the former sultanate in the Indian Ocean but was also taken with the colourfulness and exoticism which she later abundantly expressed in the illustrated 1948 travelogue Zanzibar 2 (published after her second visit to the island in 1945).

Later work

Another later picture by Stern is The Mauve Sari from 1946 that has come to Strauss from the Sol Munitz collection.

Munitz, who was born in Uruguay but whose parents emigrated to South Africa when he was a child, became a friend of Stern when he lived in Cape Town and was later able to acquire works directly from the artist’s studio in Rosebank, Johannesburg.

This picture was believed to have been painted from sketches made of Bahora women during Stern’s second stay in Zanzibar, although there is also a possibility the sitter may have been the wife of an Indian merchant in east Africa that Stern met on a trip to the Congo.

It is estimated at R13m-17m (approximately £700,000-950,000).

The same source has also provided Strauss with Stern’s Portrait of an Arab from 1945 which is believed to be a previously unrecorded portrait of a member of the Omani nobility from the court of the Sultan of Zanzibar.

The artist is known to have produced four portraits of figures from the court of Sultan Sayyid Sir Khalifa II bin Harub Al-Said, who reigned as the ninth Sultan of Zanzibar from 1911-60 and this picture would therefore appear to represent an interesting addition to her oeuvre.

The sitter is depicted wearing a black cloak replete with gold piping indicating his standing in the royal court.

It is estimated at R12m-16m (approximately £650,000-900,000) at the Strauss sale.

‘Saturday Afternoon’ by Gerard Sekoto

‘Saturday Afternoon’ by Gerard Sekoto – estimated at R3m-4m (£165,000-220,000) at Strauss.

Another work by an important name in the South African market from the Munitz collection is Saturday Afternoon by Gerard Sekoto (1913-93). A warmly coloured scene of figures cycling in a small town, it has a similar palette to Sixpence a Door, a work from 1946 made after the artist moved to Pretoria.

It is estimated at R3m-4m (£165,000-220,000).

straussart.co.za