Irma Stern portrait leads Strauss & Co’s forthcoming spring sale next week

Irma Stern’s widely exhibited portrait of a Watussi woman, valued at R9 – 12 million, will go on sale at on 7 October, along with three portraits by Maggie Laubser and a diverse selection of works by J.H. Pierneef.
Irma Stern A Watussi Woman portrait

Started on the shores of Lake Kivu, during Stern’s second visit to the Great Lakes region, the portrait was completed in 1946 at the artist’s studio in Cape Town. Stern cut short her trip after suffering a bout of malaria, which, together with the “frightful” light, hindered her progress. Unlike Stern’s previous oils of Watussi nobility in ceremonial regalia, painted during an earlier visit in 1942, her painting A Watussi Woman with Mountains depicts a confident young woman attired in traditional Rwandan dress.

Stern’s vibrant portrait was exhibited twice in Europe. The first occasion was in Paris on her solo show Irma Stern: Peintures D’Afrique at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts. Says art specialist, Matthew Partridge: “the impeccable provenance of Watussi Woman with Mountains which includes notable British scientist and philosopher Dr R.L. Worrall and Count Natale Labia, amongst others, attests to Sterns universal desirability, and provides unique biographical dimension to the painting.”

Says Bina Genovese, Strauss & Co’s joint managing director: “Irma Stern and J.H. Pierneef are bellwethers of the South African auction market. Since 2009, when we began trading, Strauss & Co has achieved R630 million in sales from just these two artists. This astonishing figure bears testimony to the broad base of collectors who have found deep pleasure in owning works by these important South African moderns. We are especially honoured to be offering the historically important Stern portrait, which was exhibited in London and Paris shortly after it was made.”

Stern’s highly important A Watussi Woman with Mountains goes under the hammer on 7 October at the Vineyard Hotel in Newlands, Cape Town.

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