Painting of Simon van der Stel

Portrait of Simon Van Der Stel highlight of the National Antiques Faire

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Only two portraits of Simon van der Stel, first governor of the Cape and the man who is credited with establishing South Africa's wine industry have been known to exist. Now, thanks to the sharp eye of antiques dealer Ricus Dullaert of Kunsthandel H.W.C Dullaert, of Amsterdam, Holland, who regularly exhibits in South Africa, a new portrait of Simon van der Stel has been discovered.

The value of this portrait – both as a historical find and as an investment piece of art – is immeasurable and South Africans will have the privilege of viewing this valuable 17th Century painting by Baroque Dutch painter Pieter van Anraedt at the National Antiques and Decorative Arts Faire which takes place at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg from 20 to 22 July 2012.

Ricus Dullaert, a respected antiques dealer in Holland, who is a regular visitor to South Africa, both as an antique dealer and a missionary involved in AIDS work, saw the painting in a dusty warehouse in Amsterdam and was intrigued by what he saw. “I could see it was a 17th Century painting but puzzled by the fact that the Baroque gentleman was holding a bunch of grapes – unusual in that Holland is not a wine-growing region. I then noticed a mountain in the background which, in a rough way, resembled Table Mountain and I knew I was onto something.” Ricus bought the painting and set about researching it to find out who the sitter was and who the painter was.

The most prestigious institute in the Netherlands that determines who sitters of portraits are and who the painters that an unsigned 17th century Dutch portrait should be attributed to is the Rijks Kunsthistorisch Documentatie Centrum (R.K.D) in the Hague in Netherlands. Professor Rudi Ekkart, a leading scientist in determining unknown sitters in portraits soon confirmed that the person depicted in the portrait was indeed Simon van der Stel, the first governor of the Cape and the person responsible for planting the first grapes in the Cape and for establishing the famous Groot Constantia wine estate. Professor Rudi Ekkart was also able to identify the painter as Pieter van Anraedt, one of the famous Baroque Era Dutch painters.

Having established both the artist and sitter Ricus Dullaert turned his energies to finding out more about Simon van der Stel and his wine-making talents from South African historians. He started corresponding with Mr. J.B.Bedaux who published a very interesting article in 1988 titled: “The portraits of Simon van der Stel, First Governor of the Cape” published in Stellenbosch papers in linguistics, no.17, 1988. This article mentioned a very interesting book titled: “Simon van der Stel en sy kinders (Simon van der Stel and his children)”, by A.J.Boeseken, Kaapstad 1964.

As the pieces of the puzzle come together with input from both the experts in Holland and the historians in South Africa, the fascination of this story continues. Ricus Dullaert believes that as Pieter van Anraedt died on 13th April1678, the painting of Simon van der Stel must thus have been painted before this date. “However Simon van der Stel was only appointed governor of the Cape in 1679. Did Simon van der Stel already know that he was going to the Cape and that he would be involved in growing grapes when this painting was painted? Every answer brings new questions!”

“Finding this rare portrait of Simon van der Stel in a dusty warehouse in Amsterdam is an important find in itself but discovering a portrait of him with the symbolic grapes that were to become the seeds of South Africa’s very own wine industry makes this painting all the more relevant. The portrait will be exhibited and offered for sale to the South African public at the National Antiques and Decorative Arts Faire which takes place at the Sandton Convention Centre in Sandton, Johannesburg from 20 to 22 July 2012.

For more detail on the painting please click here.

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