A magisterial floral still life by Irma Stern, South Africa’s foremost painter, is the highlight of Strauss & Co’s bountiful crop of offerings at its forthcoming spring sale in Cape Town on 15 October. Painted in 1947, Dahlias (estimate R8 – 12 million) is a peak-period Stern depicting a favoured flower and additionally claims an impeccable provenance.

Originally owned by renowned art collectors Ben and Cecilia Jaffe, Stern’s brilliantly coloured oil was acquired by noted Cape Town collector Count Luccio Labia in 1994 at a sale handled by auctioneer Stephan Welz, who in 2009 helped establish Strauss & Co, now South Africa’s leading auction house. Part of a consignment of 22 paintings from the Labia Family Collection, Dahlias exhibits Stern’s masterful brushwork and authoritative handling of paint. 

Dahlias were a recurrent subject in Stern’s paintings from the 1930s and 40s. The artist produced five such still lifes featuring these sumptuous cut flowers, of which this painting is the fifth. Dahlias has been characterised by noted Stern scholar Marion Arnold as an “exuberant composition” that bursts “beyond the confines of the frame” (Irma Stern: A Feast for the Eye, 1995).

The intersection of quality and provenance is a hallmark of Strauss & Co’s October sale. The catalogue includes 22 paintings released from the Labia Family Collection, as well as 20 works in various media from the Peter and Regina Strack Collection, notably three rare oils by Adolph Jentsch.

Count Luccio Labia, who passed away in November 2016, was well known for his judicious taste, both in art and cars. The son of Count Natale Teodato Labia and Princess Ida Labia, nee Robinson, daughter of South African mining magnate and art collector Sir Joseph Benjamin Robinson (1840–1929), his art collection included works by South African, European and British artists.

Aside from the excellent Stern, other notable works released from the Labia Family Collection include an important landscape painting from 1918 by Pieter Wenning. The Yellow House: Bishopscourt in Winter (estimate R500 000 – 700 000) executed on an overcast day in August 1918; the work shows Wenning at the pinnacle of his perceptive mastery. British modernist Ivon Hitchens’s Felled Trees (estimate R500 000 – 700 000) was painted in 1946 and originates from the same period as a work held in the Tate Collection.

German-born Peter Strack immigrated to Namibia in 1950 and was a partner in the architectural firm Stauch & Partners. He began honing his skills as an artist and collector under the tutelage of Adolph Jentsch and principally collected 20th-century Namibian art, notably works by Jentsch, Fritz Krampe and John Muafangejo. Highlights include Vlei on Farm Teufelsbach (estimate R600 000 – 800 000), which offers a delightfully verdant view of the Otjihavera River, and Ibenstein, SW Afrika (estimate R600 000 – 700 000), a masterfully achieved night scene in grey.

“Artworks owned by esteemed and visionary collectors are always sought after by newer generations of collectors,” says Bina Genovese, joint managing director of Strauss & Co. “Discerning collectors recognise that collecting not only involves connoisseurship but also custodianship, and by owning a work previously held by an important collector they are participating in a lineage of discernment.”

Other notable works from single-owner collections on offer at Strauss & Co’s spring sale include two paintings and two drawings by Irma Stern released by the Irma Stern Trust Collection, as well as four relief paintings by Kenneth Bakker. 

Stern’s Castle, Madeira (estimate R2 – 3 million) dates from 1963 and depicts the Fort of São João Baptista do Pico with a tropical palette of warm ochres, yellows, pinks and red, off-set against a lively sea of emerald green tones. An earlier portrait from 1949, Woman with Orange Headscarf  (estimate R250 000 – 350 000) also forms part of the release. Proceeds from the sale of these works will benefit the Irma Stern Trust.

Part of a neglected generation of mid-century abstract painters, Bakker was the first local painter to receive an award at the São Paulo Biennale. The four Bakker lots date from 1967 to 1980, and include Tidal Pool (estimate R70 000 – 100 000) and Relief Painting with Construction No. 2 (estimate R50 000 – 70 000), three-dimensional assemblages composed of overlapping sheets of perspex painted with layers of oil-paint to produce a physically textured surface.

A global leader for South African art, Strauss & Co has sold nine of the ten most expensive paintings ever auctioned in South Africa. Stern’s Dahlias (lot 513) will go under the hammer on the evening of Monday 15 October at the Vineyard Hotel in Newlands, Cape Town. The public can view this important work, along with other works mentioned, from 12 to 14 October, from 10am to 5pm. 

The sale also includes outstanding examples of jewellery, decorative arts and furniture.
Strauss & Co will also be hosting an extensive programme of public talks and social events in the lead-up to the sale.
Press enquiries:  Bina Genovese, bina@straussart.co.za  | 083 680 9944

Important South African & International Art, Decorative Arts & Jewellery including Paintings from the Labia Family Collection and the Late Peter and Regina Strack Collection

Monday 15 October 2018
10.30am:  Session One     (Lots 1-200)
2.00pm:    Session Two     (Lots 201-330)
4.00pm:    Session Three  (Lots 331-490)
7.00pm:    Session Four    (Lots 491-621)

The Vineyard Hotel, Newlands, Cape Town, Colinton Road (off Protea Road)
GPS Co-ordinates: S 33° 58’ 44.6” E 18° 27’ 31.1”

Friday 12 to Sunday 14 October 10am to 5pm

Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 October at 11am

Friday 12 October at 12 noon – Decorative Arts Highlights
Saturday 13 October at 2.30pm – The Power of Provenance
Sunday 14 October at 2.30pm – The Life and Times of Christo Coetzee

+27 (0) 21 683 6560
Mobile +27 (0) 78 044 8185
Fax: +27 (0) 21 683 6085