The leaky SA wine spittoon has been rocked by the news that a new portrait of the first governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, had been found “in a dusty warehouse in Amsterdam.” A press release from the National Antiques Faire – not abbreviated to NAF for nought – makes interesting reading.
Ricus Dullaert, “a respected antiques dealer in Holland” and owner of the new portrait: “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.” Well Ricus, if you’d consulted the Groot Constantia website, you’d have found out that Simon “had owned two vineyards, pressed grapes and made wine and brandy… at Muiderberg in the Netherlands” before becoming governor.
Which makes the speculation “[since] Simon van der Stel was only appointed governor of the Cape in 1679 [and the presumed artist died in 1678], 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!” embarrassing.
Si’s boss, Jan van Riebeeck, would not be best pleased to learn that Si was “the person responsible for planting the first grapes in the Cape” – when Jan had already made the first wine in the Cape before Si appeared on the scene.
But is the burger in the painting alongside the press release really even Simon? For according to Wikipedia, Si was the son of “Maria Lievens, daughter of a freed Indian slave woman known as Monica of the Coast of Goa, or Monica da Costa. Simon was therefore a Eurasian.”
Well the gent in the portrait looks very white to me, which makes you wonder where Simon got his nickname of koffieboon (“coffee bean”) from. He’s also not aged well for a man in his thirties, which is what Si was when the purported artist Pieter van Anraedt moved to the big studio in the sky. Can’t wait to see the complexion of Ricus’s Baroque burgher and to check out those jowels in the flesh. Any artistically inclined SA wine moguls (GT, Johann, Paul) or Iziko Museums tempted to bid on any Simon portrait should pasop, as they say in the old country. Perhaps best to stick to Irma Stern, who also did a lot for SA wine, from the all-important consumption side.