Three Pierneef paintings which once belonged to Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, will be sold at Bonhams sale of South African Art on October 14th in New Bond Street, London.
Princess Alice accompanied her husband when he served as Governor-General of South Africa from 1924–1931. During their time in South Africa, Lord and Lady Athlone had a coastal beach house constructed at Muizenberg, a beach suburb of Cape Town, which still stands today and is one of South Africa’s national monuments. The Cape Town Suburb of Athlone was named in honour of the Governor-General. Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone (1883 – 1981) was the longest lived Princess of the Blood Royal of the British Royal Family and the last surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria.
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, Scene of a sleepy town in the Cape. It is estimated to sell for £80,000 to £120,000
Bonhams smashed the previous world record for a South African work of art last autumn with the sale of J.H. Pierneefs ‘The Baobab Tree’ for £826,400 (ZAR 12,400,000). These three paintings by Pierneef (1886-1957) include a scene of a sleepy town in the Cape, a sun-drenched avenue with typical Cape Dutch cottages and Dutch Reformed Church beyond. It is estimated to sell for £80,000 to £120,000. It is signed and dated 1929, the same year Pierneef was commissioned to paint 32 panels for the Johannesburg railway station, which occupied most of his time over the next three years. Once owned by HRH Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, it has been passed by direct descent to the current owner.
The second picture is a Karoo landscape with a typical rural dwelling, also oil on board, that is estimated to sell for £40,000-60,000.
The third picture is `Government House, Pretoria, oil on board, estimated to sell for £15,000-20,000. The Presidential Guesthouse, designed by Sir Herbert Baker in 1902, was known as Government House when the work was painted, presumably as a commission or gift to Princess Alice who would have lived there during her husbands tenure as Governor-General.
It is not certain whether these pictures were gifts or works commissioned by Princess Alice. What is certain is that she was an admirer of Pierneef’s work. In October 1930 Pierneef held an exhibition of 47 paintings in Pretoria which Princess Alice visited and selected two paintings that the Women’s Committee of Pretoria wished to present to her.The Princess chose `Karoo’ and `Bushveld Rustenberg’. Two months later she and the newly retired Governor General visited Pierneef’s studio and chose a large painting – a landscape of the northern Transvaal that they wished to donate to the museum in Cape Town because they felt that South African artists were poorly represented in the museum. Today that work takes pride of place in the South African National Gallery, opened by the Athlones on 3rd November 1930.
Giles Peppiatt, Head of African Art at Bonhams comments: “This charming painting has the added interest and significance of having once belonged to a British Royal married to the Governor General of South Africa. Pierneef is artistic royalty in South Africa and painted a number of commissions for South Africa House in London. So this picture is a very potent link between Britain and South Africa.”