The Red Dress by Irma Stern, the grande dame of South African art, leads The South African Sale, to be held at Bonhams' New Bond Street saleroom on 13 September 2017. The bold and colourful painting is a sensitive depiction of a young Cape Malay woman. It is estimated at £250,000-350,000.

The portrait was executed in 1949, when Stern was at the height of her powers. The sitter's features are delineated in bold black strokes that exude artistic confidence. The red highlights on the woman's nose and forehead echo the vibrant pigment of her dress, whilst the blue of the background is picked up in her scarf.

Bonhams Director of South African Art, Giles Peppiatt suggests that the portrait derives much of its power from the artist's empathy for her sitter: "Although she spent much of her life in South Africa, Irma Stern felt unsettled by Capetonian high society and always viewed herself as something of an outsider. She spent many years travelling, and was fascinated by the different cultures she encountered. At a time when the sitter would have been viewed as a second-class citizen, The Red Dress demonstrates a sympathy and mutual understanding between the white European artist and her subject."

Elsewhere in the auction, Jacob Pierneef celebrates the unique African landscape in his depiction of Hartbeespoort Dam. Executed in 1946, Hartbeespoort Dam is a revision of one of the artist's most important compositions: a panel from his career-defining commission for the Johannesburg railway station.

Other highlights include:
• Gerard Sekoto's Congolese Maid is estimated at £30,000-50,000.
• Robert Griffiths Hodgins' The Interrogation Room is estimated at £20,000-25,000.

Bonhams currently holds world records for sales of Irma Stern and Gerard Sekoto. In 2011, Stern's Arab Priest achieved an astonishing £3,044,000. Sekoto's Yellow houses, District Six sold for £602,400 in the same year.


For further information and images call Laura Watts on +44 (0) 20 7468 8210, or email or


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. Today, the auction house offers more sales than any of its rivals. The main salerooms are in London, New York and Hong Kong. Sales are also held in the UK in Knightsbridge and Edinburgh; in the US, in San Francisco and Los Angeles; in Europe, in Paris and Stuttgart and in Sydney, Australia. Bonhams also has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of forthcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, please visit

  1. Giles Peppiatt
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 8355
    FaxFax: +44 20 7468 5839

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