Portrait of a Malay woman signed and dated 'Irma Stern / 1955' (upper left) oil on canvas 66 x 52cm (26 x 20 1/2in).
PROVENANCE: A private collection
A very similiar pose to the current work is adopted in the 1955 portrait Maid in uniform (Irma Stern Museum). In both portraits the sitters gaze is directed out from the canvas, yet she is also looking slightly askance. The poise of the subject informs us that sitting to the artist was infra dig and the implication being that the observer is more voyeur than viewer.
Stern was entranced by the Cape Malays and painted them whenever a suitable opportunity arose. In an article in the Cape Argus Stern was quoted:
"The Far East - the cradle of culture. Its symbols, its philosophy, all its mystery lie in their large almond-shaped eyes. I completely lost my heart to one Indian lady, the wife of a rich merchant.
Her face was like a delicate ivory carving, and just like ivory when time has touched it - tinted; her neck was like a fragile stalk of a hot house flower. Only after promising never to show hwe portrait in public did she permit me to paint her".
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Irma Stern, Expressions of a Journey, Johannesburg 2003.