29th Sep, 2021 19:00

Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 1
Lot 1 - Nita Spilhaus (South Africa 1878-1967)


Nita Spilhaus (South Africa 1878-1967)
Malay Quarter

oil on artist's board

Signature details: signed with the artist's monogram bottom left

Sold for R47,796
Estimated at R50,000 - R80,000


oil on artist's board

Signature details: signed with the artist's monogram bottom left


34.5 x 27.5 cm; framed size: 46.5 x 40.5 x 4 cm


Private collection, Johannesburg.


Nita Spilhaus studied art at the Kunst Akademie in Munich before settling in Cape Town during the early 1900s. Like many of her contemporaries, Spilhaus integrated her European influences into the development of her own distinctive style. In 1907, she became a member of the South African Society of Artists (SASA), established in 1902, where she met and socialised with other European-trained artists including Allerley Glossop and Hugo Naudé.

Spilhaus did not paint outdoors during the years of WWI (because of her German nationality) and briefly took to flower-painting. However, before 1914 and soon after 1918, she frequented the streets of Cape Town in search of unique subject matter, while refining her painting style and colouring to capture the impressions made by the sharp and dazzling light of the city.

In this charming painting, titled Malay Quarter, Cape Town, Spilhaus beautifullycaptures the vivid, warm daylight on what appears to be washing day in the historic Malay Quarter of Cape Town. The brightly painted houses light up as sun rays shine on their walls, contrasted by shadows cast in narrow walkways between buildings. The scene is calm and serene. Women and children are strolling along the alleyway, underneath washing lines with billowing clothes hanging and blowing dry. To the right of the composition, three figures are seen sitting on a stoep, backs against a typical Dutch door, basking in the Cape sun. The impression is that of a bright, cloudless day in the harbour city.

This work is not only one of Spilhaus’ finest portrayals of the old Malay Quarter but presents a significant visual record of a time and place gone by.

A similar walkway, or gang, as depicted in Spilhaus’ painting can be located today on the corner of Buitengracht Street and Neiderlands Lane in the Bo-Kaap. Still visible, is the groove in the middle of the cobble walkway used to drain rainwater, or as typically in the old Malay Quarter, to drain excess water from wet clothes drying in the sun.


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Auction: Modern & Contemporary Art, 29th Sep, 2021

Aspire Art Auctions brings a significant and insightfully compiled selection of top-quality modern and contemporary art to auction in Cape Town. The sale stars exceptional works by many of South Africa’s big signatures, including, William Kentridge, Robert Hodgins, Penny Siopis, Edoardo Villa, Sydney Kumalo and J.H Pierneef, amongst others. Also featured is an exciting collection of contemporary artists from elsewhere in Africa – Patrick Bongoy and Zemba Luzamba from the Congo, Moustapha Baïdi Oumarou from Cameroon and Gerald Chukwuma from Nigeria.

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