Lot 1053
  • 1053


1,800,000 - 2,800,000 HKD
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  • Affandi
  • Kairo, Mesir (Cairo, Egypt)
  • Signed and dated 1971
  • Oil on canvas


Acquired directly from the artist
Collection of Sardjana Sumichan
Private Collection, Indonesia


Raka Sumichan, Dr Umar Kayam, Affandi, Yayasan Bina Lestari Budaya, Jakarta, 1987, p. 168, colorplate 115

Sardjana Sumichan, Affandi: Volume III, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore, 2007, p. 61, colorplate 24


This work is in good overall condition as viewed. There is some very light cracking to areas of very thick impasto that is only visible upon close inspection, but this is consistent with the age of the work. Examination under ultraviolet light reveals no sign of restoration. Framed.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

On a night of the full moon in 1971, Affandi, who was an impassioned observer of nature, recorded a phenomenal sighting on the present canvas. A majestic red sphere commands the Egyptian skyline, filling the atmosphere with a subtle red glory. This super-moon, also known as the ‘blood moon,’ suggests the total phase of a lunar eclipse. During this astronomical event, our three celestial bodies are aligned in a straight line; and as the moon passes through the earth’s shadow, moonlight is momentarily quenched from the night sky. Its ordinary brilliance is dimmed to a deep coppery red illumination.

Painted in the city of Cairo, Egypt, this work belongs to the latter stage of the artist’s “travelling series,” which began in 1949 following Indonesia’s independence from Dutch sovereignty. Affandi received a scholarship from the government of India to pursue painting at the prestigious Satiniketan Academy founded by the legendary poet, painter and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1941). During his two-year grant in India, he travelled throughout the country and ravenously painted from city to city. This opportunity afforded him to revisit a painting technique he first invented in 1942 during the Japanese occupation, but was unable to continue due to the difficult circumstances at the time.1 

Therefore, Affandi’s inaugural trip abroad was a turning point that greatly accelerated the flowering of his personal expression. His momentous successes in India had inspired him to continue his journey to Europe where he continued to hold exhibitions in major cities and cemented his identity in the international art scene. Representing Indonesia at the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1953 and the Venice Biennale in 1954, Affandi became the first Indonesian artist to draw international attention whose works were being critiqued by prominent intellectuals at the time. During his sojourns abroad, Affandi was exposed to key European artists of Western art history, but that did not sway him away from his own roots and aesthetic sensibilities.

Sharing an impassioned affinity with the anti-idealistic wave of artists such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh, Affandi created a new mode of expression that underscored a pan-Indonesia modernism. His paintings are characterised by crude lines and a vibrant colour palette of predominantly primate colours to express his own internalised emotions. Evident on the present painting is a masterful depiction of Islamic Cairo, a moniker for the core of medieval Cairo, where the greatest historical Islamic monuments are built and preserved. Affandi described the scene with tremendous ease and eloquence in his execution: the undulating minarets and quabbas punctuate the night sky, while the inhabitants on the foreground are completely consumed by this natural wonder.

Painting voraciously en plein air to catch the fleeting glimpses of the blood moon, Affandi squeezed oil paints straight from their tubes onto the raw canvas and simultaneously mixing the colours with his fingers. It was his solution to express the flow of feelings and capture those elemental energies. His aim was to provide a direct emulation of the present moment as real as he can. Furthermore, Affandi went beyond the traditional practice of utilising paint as a descriptive medium, for the quick and fluid gestures created vibrant streams of impastos that rendered his subjects in a largely symbolic manner. Attention is redirected to the materiality of paint and the emotional effects of colours. The predominant fiery palette is symbolic of the scorching heat during a typical Egyptian summer. According to the historical records of total Lunar eclipses in year 1971, the phenomenon occurred during one of the hottest months in Cairo on the 6th of August. Emitting from the core of the majestic super-moon are swirls and swashes of paints in circular movements, giving radiance to the navy night sky.

Painting for Affandi, was a lifelong inquiry into human nature. Each depicted reality was a different exploration of the artist’s own psyche and the relation he had with the immediate surrounding. Affandi’s paintings are therefore visually and emotionally simulating, as the impetus to paint stemmed from the deep empathy and respect he had for nature, for humanity and for his country. In 1953, the artist revealed the source of his creative impulse during a speech at a university in Paris: “I feel very [deeply] about humanism. It may be the wrong word “humanism.” I mean all what is right and good to every living creature.”2 A founding member of major painters’ associations such as the Union of Indonesian Painters (Gabungan Pelukis Indonesia), and a participant in numerous political resistance organisations fostering young Indonesian painters, Affandi dedicated his life to an immediate future that advocated freedom and mobility of his people. His pictures were attempts to disrupt the spell of Western colonial presence with the intention to transcend the humble and the ordinary of his home country. Lauded as the People’s Painter of Indonesia, Affandi played a crucial role in shaping the new Republic of Indonesia during its infancy.

1 Sardjana Sumichan, Affandi Volume III, Bina Lestari Budaya Foundation Jakarta and Singapore Art Museum, 2007, p. 12

2 Refer to 1, pg. 22