Who was Freda Feldman? This is the question on art lovers lips this week as two portraits of the woman by Irma Stern are on exhibit at the Wanders Club in Joburg before going under the hammer at the Strauss & Co auction on November 13. Stern artworks tend to command attention and heavy price tags — both are valued at R5m. However, it is unusual for portraits of the same person to be up for sale at the same time. A relative of Feldman’s has, presumably, decided to let them go. What value could they be to people other than her family? Why should we be interested in Feldman? Stern enjoyed painting portraits. Faces of all sorts of people stare out from the walls of the Irma Stern museum established in the artist’s home in Mowbray, Cape Town. Nevertheless, Feldman is a special sitter. Stern painted her six times. Three of those paintings were made in the same year — two of which, Freda in Khaki and Freda with Roses, are the focus of the Strauss & Co sale. Last year the first of the trio,...

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