Last weekend in Johannesburg Olive’s parents went under the hammer. This story of an African auction is just like the book by Olive Schreiner The Story of an African Farm , as it had all of the ingredients to make it a bestseller.
Last weekend in Johannesburg Olive’s parents went under the hammer. This story of an African auction is just like the book by Olive Schreiner The Story of an African Farm , as it had all of the ingredients to make it a bestseller. The auction itself was of the contents of the home of Patricia Schreiner who traced her lineage back to William Schreiner the Cape Prime Minister from 1898 to 1900 and the brother of Olive Schreiner.
When I went to view the auction sale in Johannesburg which was held on site and in situ the overall impression was of a deceased estate that we in the trade see fairly often. Everything in the house had to go and estate sales such as this are great oppourtunities for dealers to purchase stock. First impressions of such sales are inevitably wrong and as I viewed the assorted glass, silver, furniture and pictures I was confronted with pieces that showed the bumps and knocks of time. On looking past the acquired patina that life in Africa had left on the silver in particular I had marked a few pieces that with some restoration I could revive to their former glory.
The catalogue professionally put together by Christiaan Scholtz who runs the Old Johannesburg Warehouse had put in all the relevant history and the estimates were, as known in the trade ‘come buy me’ ones. By sale day word had spread and the venue was packed with relatives of the family, members of the antique trade and the general public. As can be expected with a sale such as this, the historical connections to various pieces saw bidding take off. Lot 48 a framed flag presented in 1917 by the Imperial Air Fleet committee made R20 000. Family medals always draw attention and Captain Oliver Schreiner’s first world war group made a buyer premium inclusive R37 500.
The lot that had caught my attention and one which needs more research was a very unassuming wooden tea tray with silver plated mounts. It was the presentation plaque that stirred my curiosity and this was not missed by many in the antique trade.
In 1909 William Schreiner had led a deputation of Black and Coloured leaders to London to try and change the non-White franchise provisions under the proposed Union of South Africa act. They did not succeed and one can only imagine how South Africa would look today if they had.
When I first walked into the house the single lot that had stirred something deep within me were the family portraits of Gottlob Schreiner and his wife Rebecca. Lot 167 this pair of late Victorian portraits were in new frames and were apparently unsigned.
A fascinating story of a challenging life in Africa produced children who changed the literary landscape and almost changed our political landscape. This coupled with the pictures superb quality saw intense bidding. The hammer fell at a buyers inclusive R80 000 and fittingly the buyer was a family member.