'The Black Madonna' by Lady Anne Barnard – Zar260,000 (£14,600) at Stephan Weltz.

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Raised in a secluded castle on the coast of Fife by James Lindsay (1691-1768), the impoverished 5th Earl of Balcarrea, society beauty Anne Lindsay was also the most prolific female letter writer and diarist of the Enlightenment age.

After rejecting a dozen proposals, she finally married in her 40s and accompanied her new husband Andrew Barnard in his post as colonial secretary of the Cape of Good Hope.

Acting as the first lady of the colony from 1797, Lady Anne was a prolific recorder of life during the First British Occupation (1795-1801) – both as a writer and talented amateur artist.

Originally part of the Bibliotheca Lindesiana held by the Earls of Crawford and Balcarres, the family archive has recently been transferred to the National Library of Edinburgh.

Very few works have made it to the market.

The first of two watercolours offered in Cape Town on July 2 was a 7 x 6in (18 x 14cm) finished version of a well-known image titled The Black Madonna that Lady Anne references in her diaries.

Two preparatory versions are known, the subject recently identified as an Indian slave named Theresa nursing her master van Reenen’s youngest child. The family lived at the Ganzekraal farm, near Darling.

Pitched at up to Zar80,000, it sold at Zar260,000 (£14,600) to a private buyer.

In contrast to contemporary male artists in the Cape, Barnard’s work was produced without future publication or official sanction in mind. She was also unusually curious about the wellbeing and origins of the servants and slaves around her.

Sketched at Ganzekraal on the same day in 1799 was a second 8 x 6in (20 x 16cm) maternal portrait of a Khoi chieftainess and her infant reaching for a rattle fashioned from a dried gourd. This time the hammer price of Zar160,000 (£9000) was tendered by Iziko Museums of which the South African National Gallery is a part.

The watercolour will form part of Iziko’s social history collection.


A maternal portrait of a Khoi chieftainess and her infant by Lady Anne Barnard – Zar160,000 (£9000) at Stephan Weltz.

From the same vendor came one of the last of the many letters Lady Anne wrote during her stay at the Cape to the Tory politician (and former suitor) Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742-1811).

Dated July 25, 1801, these three pages touch on the difficulties of supplying ships with food, a recent visit from Lady Clive en route to Madras, and the imminent return home (in January 1802).

Offered in a folder for the London bookseller Francis Edwards, who purchased the Dundas family papers at Sotheby’s in 1927, it sold to another private buyer at Zar45,000 (£2550).

In 1806, on the reconquest of the cape by the British, Andrew Barnard was reappointed colonial secretary, but Lady Anne chose to remain in London. He died the following year.