View full screen - View 1 of Lot 183. Anton van Wouw,  1862 - 1945 | Shangaan.

Anton van Wouw, 1862 - 1945 | Shangaan

Anton van Wouw, 1862 - 1945 | Shangaan

Anton van Wouw, 1862 - 1945 | Shangaan

Anton van Wouw

1862 - 1945


inscribed 'Anton van Wouw / S.A. Joh.burg 1907' (lower left); inscribed 'G. Nisini. Fuse. Roma' (on the base)


30 by 20 by 15cm., 11¾ by 7¾ by 5¾in.(including base)

Structure: The sculpture and base are one unit.

Surface: The work exhibits light accretions and accumulation of dust in places, particularly within the grooves. Minor areas of oxidation in places. Light scratches to the back of the subject.

This excepting, the work is in very good and stable condition.

"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.


‘Please note that where the buyer is from within the UK the lot is sold with no VAT symbol. Where the buyer resides outside the UK the lot is invoiced as if it bore the “†” symbol.’
Private Collection, United Kingdom
Bonhams, London, The South African Sale, 20 March 2013, lot 6
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

L. du Toit, Suid-Afrikaanse Kunstenaars, Deel 1, Anton van Wouw, (Cape Town, 1933), illustrated plate 15 (another example)

Morris J Cohen, Anton van Wouw: Sculptor of South African Life, (Johannesburg, 1938), illustrated p 19 (another example)

H. Pellissier, Our Art Volume 1, (Pretoria 1961), illustrated (another example)

Pierneef Van Wouw: Paintings and Sculptures by two South African Masters, (Johannesburg, 1980), illustrated no 50 (another example)

A. E. Duffy, Anton van Wouw 1862-1945 en die Van Wouwhuis, (Pretoria, 1981), illustrated p 29 no A21 (another example)

Charlotte Gere and Alan Powers (ed.), The Fine Art Society Story 125 Years, 1876-2001 · Part 1, (London, 2001), illustrated pp 93-94 (another example)

A. E. Duffy, Anton van Wouw, The Smaller Works, (Pretoria 2008), illustrated p 63 and 64 (another example)

Read and J. Michau, Anton van Wouw, 1862-1945, (Johannesburg, 2009), illustrated p 13 and on the front cover (another example)

William Oliver Norman, ‘Living on the Frontline: Politics, Migration and Transfrontier Conservation in the Mozambican Villages of the Mozambique-South Africa Borderland’, PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science, 2004

In 1886, the discovery of the world’s largest gold deposits on the Witwatersrand in present-day South Africa and the ensuing gold rush was to change the region forever.


The profitability of the South African gold-mining industry depended on the supply of cheap labour from neighbouring countries, including present-day Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and in particular Mozambique, where the Portuguese colonial government saw labour exportation as a means of increasing their own revenue. The Portuguese allowed an annual recruitment of 100,000 labourers from the rural southern provinces of Mozambique, where the Shangaan people lived; by the beginning of the 20th century these Shangaan migrants accounted for up to 60% of underground mine workers in the Transvaal. The Shangaan were forced to pay for their own visas, transport and clothing, and to work in harsh and dangerous conditions, while their salaries were deferred, paid in gold directly to the Portuguese government. The principles of the ‘Mozambique Convention’, as it became known, continued to be the basis of economic relations between the two countries until Mozambique gained independence in 1975.


The Dutch-born and academically-trained sculptor Anton van Wouw, who arrived in Pretoria in 1890 and moved to the newly-established city of Johannesburg in 1906, was one of the only artists of the day to examine the plight of these urbanised migrant labourers and the terrible working and living conditions they endured. ‘Shangaan’ is the only example of this important body of work, which also includes ‘Miner with a Hand Drill’ and ‘The Hammer Worker’, whose title explicitly refers to the subject’s ethnicity, so synonymous were the Shangaan with the underground mine workers of the day. Thus van Wouw’s sculptures of mine workers were not a gallery of ethnographic studies, as they are so often misinterpreted, but rather a sensitive documentation of the migrant experience. In 1907 an inheritance from his father allowed the artist to cast his small bronzes at the well-regarded Massa and Nisini foundries in Rome, and the present lot is a particularly fine cast by the Fonderia Giovanni Nisini. Other Roman casts of ‘Shangaan’ include one in the collection of the Rupert Museum, Stellenbosch, and another that sold for $80,000 at Stephan Welz & Co in Johannesburg in November 2010.