Irma Stern (South African, 1894-1966) Piazza San Marco, Venice within an original Zanzibar frame
Lot 24*
Irma Stern
(South African, 1894-1966)
Piazza San Marco, Venice within an original Zanzibar frame
Sold for £301,250 (US$ 389,788) inc. premium

Lot Details
Irma Stern (South African, 1894-1966)
Piazza San Marco, Venice
signed and dated 'Irma Stern/ 1948' (lower left)
oil on canvas
70 x 70cm (27 9/16 x 27 9/16in).
within an original Zanzibar frame

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Acquired from Wolpe Gallery, Cape Town, circa 1965.

    Literature
    M. Arnold, Irma Stern: A Feast for the Eye, (Stellenbosch, 2005), illustrated p.90, titled St. Marco Square, Venice.

    Although not strictly Impressionist in style, Stern's works display a heightened sensitivity to light and tone. Travelling across Europe in 1948, the artist was captivated by Venice in particular. The canals with their shimmering reflections posed an irresistible challenge. Surrounded by cultural activity, Stern experienced a great surge of creativity. She reflected on her visit in a letter to her friend, Freda Feldman:

    "It was perfectly lovely to see and hear all that Europe gives in such a short time – all the new music – the plays – the Drama – the Opera – the Ballet –pictures from fourteen different countries were on show...Yes I painted in Venice quite a few pictures."

    The present lot demonstrates her fascination with the city's architecture. It depicts Venice's most famous site, Piazza San Marco. The figures strolling across the plaza lead the eye towards the sun-drenched dome of the Basilica. The deft brushwork lends a lightness to the scene; to the right of the composition, the façade of the Doge's palace almost appears to be hovering. The pastel palette and white touches emphasize the ethereal nature of these structures.

    During the Second World War, Stern had been unable to visit Europe. She spent much time travelling across Africa in this period, documenting her experiences in her paintings. By the end of the war, she was yearning for new source material. This she found in Europe; its landscapes and people would dominate her output until her death in 1966.

    The original Zanzibar woodwork framing the present lot signifies Stern's own personal satisfaction with the work. Stern was keenly involved in all aspects of her artistic production, including priming and stretching her own canvases and choosing the frames for nearly everything she produced. Zanzibar frames were exclusively reserved for her most treasured works and the ones she considered to be her very best examples. She had exported several pieces of Zanzibar woodwork (including chests and doors) during her time on the island, installing one as the door to The Firs, her Cape Town home, and breaking up the rest to frame her very best pieces.

    Bibliography
    M. Arnold, Irma Stern: A Feast for the Eye, (Stellenbosch, 1995), pp.70-77.
    M. Berman, Remembering Irma, Irma Stern: A Memoir with Letters, (Cape Town, 2003), pp.129–153.
Activities
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Contacts
  1. South African Pictures (UK)
    Auction administration - South African Art
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