Herbert Baker (British, 1862-1946) A general plan of the Rhodes Memorial at Groote Schuur
Lot 307
Herbert Baker
(British, 1862-1946)
A general plan of the Rhodes Memorial at Groote Schuur
£40,000 - 60,000
US$ 54,000 - 81,000

Lot Details
Herbert Baker (British, 1862-1946)
A general plan of the Rhodes Memorial at Groote Schuur
signed and dated 'H. Baker & Kendall / Archts: Cape Town / July 1912' (lower right)
watercolour and pen and ink over printed base
60 x 47.5cm (23 5/8 x 18 11/16in).


  • As a young English architect in 1893, Herbert Baker was commissioned by Cecil Rhodes, Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, to restore Groote Schuur in Rondebosch. Baker was in Cape Town temporarily with the intent of visiting his brother Lionel, but welcomed this unique opportunity. The property was bought by Cecil Rhodes as an old dilapidated Dutch granary barn. It was envisioned by Rhodes to be a grand estate on the slopes of Devil's Peak on Table Mountain, with views of the False Bay, Table Bay, Helderburg and the Hottentots Holland mountains.

    Baker was to maintain an element of the original Cape Dutch appearance of Groote Schuur. This is evident in his application of the ornate gables quintessential to the Dutch and the combination of white-washed walls and thatched roofs. Rhodes included Baker largely in furnishing the interior; they had struck up quite a strong mutual bond which placed Baker in good stead for his future career in colonial architecture. He enjoyed this commission as it offered much freedom, given that Rhodes was a diamond magnate.

    Baker's endeavour was successful for him in making his name known and in leading a new form of South African architecture, and for this he remained appreciative of Rhodes. This style is still largely present in the Western Cape region, particularly in the vineyards of Stellenbosch. Baker went on to practice architecture in other South African towns and cities including Durban, Bloemfontein and Grahamstown. Groote Schuur was the home of South Africa's state leaders until 1994 and the end of the apartheid. Baker's creation represented South African identity at a time when it was still tied so strongly to Europe, now it remains as a monument of South African history.

    In 1906 Baker designed the Rhodes Memorial in commemoration of Cecil Rhodes' contribution to South African heritage and to reflect his ambitions and visions for his adopted nation. It was designed with his practice Herbert Baker, Kendall & Morris but his personal knowledge of Rhodes seeped into the structure. Baker was a great believer in symbols in architecture about which he and his friend, Edwin Lutyens who favoured abstract forms, never found agreement. Baker allowed his admiration and appreciation to show through in elements of his design, adding nostalgia to this site of intended reverence and respect. In this way, his work has been considered very literary and is perhaps a contributing factor to why, after the union of South Africa, he was commissioned by Jan Smuts to lay out the main government office complex in Pretoria; the iconic Union Buildings. His pleasure in employing fine stones and craftsmanship combined with his poeticism would add grandeur and an idealistic power to the structure, ideal as a symbol for the British Empire.

    The design for the Rhodes Memorial was influenced by the structures of ancient Greece and temples which Baker studied while abroad in the Mediterranean, where he was sent by Cecil Rhodes purely to further his architectural education. There are forty-nine steps leading up the monument, they are oversized to give an impression of the weight of time as each symbolises one year in Rhodes' life. The monument is located in what had been his most favoured place to sit and view the Cape coast. This design was chosen because of Rhodes' admiration for classical architecture and the location for being one of his most favoured places to sit, reflect, and view the Cape Coast. He made use of classical architecture, in many instances, for imperial purposes as his ideals were still deeply rooted in imperialism.

    This lot is in South Africa. Therefore it is not subject to VAT on either the hammer price or the buyer's premium. Payment for this lot may be made in Sterling in London or in South African Rand through our Johannesburg office using the published rate of exchange on the date of the auction and collection must be made through our Johannesburg office. Buyers who intend to export this lot from South Africa must apply to the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) for the relevant export permit. Please contact the department for further information.
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