Mandela photo fetches top dollar

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Copy of ST_Mandela Arms edited_COUNTRY_E1 (39715706) REUTERS The iconic photograph of Nelson Mandela gazing through the barred window of his Robben Island cell sold for R190 000 at auction.

Cape Town - The iconic photograph of Nelson Mandela gazing through the barred window of his Robben Island cell sold for R190 000 at a Cape Town auction on Tuesday.

It was the same day the photographer, Jürgen Schadeberg, received the Cornell Capa Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Center of Photography.

The final bid for the photograph, pictured above, set a record for a Schadeberg photograph at auction. Raised by an anonymous South African, the bid sailed to more than double the value the Stephan Welz & Co auction house had estimated. The photo was one of just 20 authenticated copies signed by Mandela and Schadeberg in 2007 and embossed with a copyright stamp.

Born in Germany, Schadeberg lived in South Africa for decades. He first captured Mandela in 1951, following him as a Drum magazine photographer in the 1950s and 60s.

He called the moment he took the photo in 1994 “very emotional”.

“I think it’s an important image because it does represent his life. That’s how he spent 17 years and I think that when I took the pictures there was a very quiet moment – the 17 years that he was there must have gone through his head.”

Schadeberg said he was surprised and honoured by the recognition from the International Center of Photography, considered the Oscars of the photography industry.

“Being among some of the top world photographers who have achieved this award, including Henri-Cartier-Bresson and so on – what else can I say? I’m very happy.”

Another lauded artist attracted high bids with a piece honouring Mandela. British royal portrait painter Richard Stone painted the former president in 2008, and the smaller study he produced sold for R1 million.

The winning bid, telephoned in from a Dutch charity, was 10 times auction house expectations. Proceeds will benefit the CIDA University in Joburg.

“I’m hugely excited,” Stone said. The experience of painting Mandela was one of the most exciting of his life, and the portrait was one of his best, he felt.

“I had the most marvellous, most unique experience of being able to study his features close at hand, hear his conversation and of course record faithfully his whole life experience which was etched into his features… Because he was so comfortable in my presence, as I was with him, he really sort of opened as a window for me to look into his soul. I like to think that, viewing the portrait, one gets a sense of being close to the man.”

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Cape Argus


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