'The Bushman Hunter' signed and dated 'A v.Wouw 1902' (to base); inscribed 'G NISINI. FUSE -ROMA-' (to base) bronze 50 cm (19 11/16 in) high
LITERATURE: University of Pretoria, Anton van Wouw en die van Wouwhuis, (Pretoria, 1981), another edition illustrated p. 27 A.E. Duffey, Anton van Wouw: The Smaller Works, (Pretoria, 2008), another edition illustrated p. 36-38 A.J. Werth, PIERNEEF/VAN WOUW: Paintings and sculptures by two South African masters, Rembrandt van Rijn Art Foundation exhibition 1980/81, another edition illustrated plate 43
The Bushman Hunter is one of Van Wouw's most popular small sculptures. The model for the sculpture, named Korhaan, stayed with van Wouw for a year, working as a servant and sculptural model. Unused to clothing, he is said to have gone about his duties in the nude. Korhaan was then taken to America by his next employer, where he was exhibited as a human rarity, and eventually found his way into Barnum and Bailey's circus where he worked for more than thirty years.
The present lot exemplifies the fine detail and careful application of textures that characterise van Wouw's work. The realistic details have been applied throughout the sculpture; the folds of skin on the hunter's back and right arm, the wrinkles on his neck and curls in his hair are particularly striking.
Van Wouw worked with two foundries: "the best castings of this small sculpture, which mostly have a dark brown patina, were cast by Giovanni Nisini of the via Babuino 63 and the Giovanni Massa foundry in Rome". There are two different forms of the bow and arrow which occur in these works, as A.E. Duffy points out in a close study of Van Wouw's smaller works: "...some Massa and Nisini castings show an arrow with a prominent point and feathers, while other Massa and Nisini castings show the arrow without a point and feathers." The present lot is a version of the Bushman Hunter with a small bow and arrow and a small point with no fletching. Importantly, "Van Wouw finished every individual figurine personally after it had returned from the foundry and before he sold it".
Similarities can be drawn with Rodin's John the Baptist preaching, which Van Wouw is likely to have seen in Rotterdam while a student at the Rotterdam Academy. Both sculptures are depicting nude male figures standing in contrapposto, with one foot behind the other, animated arms and lifelike facial expressions.
Other Roman casts of The Bushman Hunter were sold at Bonhams London, Wednesday, October 26, 2011, lot 502 and at Sotheby's Johannesburg/Stephan Welz & Co., Monday, May 12, 2003, lot 586. Others are in the collections of South Africa House, London, the South African Reserve Bank, Pretoria, and the Rupert Museum, Stellenbosch.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: A.E. Duffey, Anton van Wouw: The Smaller Works, (Pretoria, 2008), another edition illustrated pp.36-38, 218