Friday, February 12, 2010

The Missing Portrait Mystery

Readers of the blog will know that the Elink Schuurman family is connected to the Townsends. A certain Tom Elink Schuurman, who appears to be a descendant of a brother of Henri Maximilian Elink Schuurman, husband of Maria Augusta Townsend, was Dutch East Indies Consul General in Australia before World War Two. Nora Heysen won the 1938 (announced January 1939) Archibald Prize for her portrait of Madame Elink Schuurman.

This is the best copy of the portrait that I have been able to find so far, from a newspaper of the day.

In trying to find out more  about the portrait, I came across this newspaper report from July 2005. It states, in part:
"But after months of research, Ms Hendriksen has been unable to trace Heysen's most famous work - her portrait of Madame Elink Schuurman, which won the Archibald in 1938.
"Usually you can track paintings of this quality pretty easily," she said. "Either they are bought and sold at auction or there is some trail, some provenance. But, in this case, nothing. It has just disappeared."
The work, Ms Hendriksen said, was "a wonderful portrait, a quintessential early-modernist piece with a classical structure and a treatment of textiles that still maintains a freshness". Or at least, it would if she could find it. She has searched all the major private and public collections in Australia, sought help from the Heysen family and followed countless false leads. But there is no sign of the painting, no clue to its fate - though she has heard unsubstantiated rumours that it ended up in Spain."

Now, photos in the pre-war newspapers include at least one in which the young Elink Schuurman children featured. One of the children was named Henri, like many of his forebears, and his older sister was named Marcel, Marcelle or Marcile. Searching for Henri Elink Schuurman on the internet tells me that one person of that name, an ex-diplomat, lives in Spain.

Is he the son of Tom Elink Schuurman and does he have a valuable and much sought-after portrait of his mother? I wish I was in the position where I could just up stakes and head off to Spain to check it out.

Note: More searching tells me that Madame Elink Schuurman (no forename yet) was the daughter of Dr & Madame P M Lambert of Shanghai and Paris. The Elink Schuurmans married in 1933.

The caption to another photo reveals that Marcel was born in Holland and Henri in Singapore.


  1. This is all very exciting geoff d.

  2. Maybe you could e-mail them?

  3. I've known the websites and email address since before I posted this. Just plucking up the courage to send what I've already typed out.

    If I open a can of worms, can I get them all back in?

  4. Tom ELINK SCHUURMAN was indeed related to Henri Maximilian ELINK SCHUURMAN, husband of Maria Augusta TOWNSEND, but a descendant of Henri Maximilian's father Hendrikus ELINK SCHUURMAN 1778-1848.

    Tom ELINK SCHUURMAN was born on 10 May 1901 in Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland, Nederland. Tom died in Cascais, Portugal, on 10 Feb 1979; he was 77. Buried on 13 Feb 1979 in Malveira, Cascais, Portugal.

    On 5 Jul 1933 when Tom ELINK SCHUURMAN was 32, he married Adine Michèle LAMBERT, daughter of Pierre Marcel LAMBERT and Marie DUBESSY, in Lochem, Gelderland, Nederland. Born on 9 Mar 1913 in Versaille, France. Adine Michèle died in Julien-en-Genevois, aute Savois, France, on 18 Oct 1986; she was 73.

    They had the following children:
    i. Noel Marcele ELINK SCHUURMAN. Born in Den Haag, Zuid-Holland, Nederland. She married Peter Andreas HOFMANN.
    ii. Henri Guillaume Arnaud ELINK SCHUURMAN was born in Singapore. He married M. Rodriguez GIMENO.
    iii. Joy Chantal ELINK SCHUURMAN. Born in New York, USA. She married Andre Henri Francis MOINON.
    iv. Sylvana Iracema ELINK SCHUURMAN was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She first married Fernando Antonio Ferenca GASPAR. She second married F. MONIZ GALVAO.

    Tom ELINK SCHUURMAN was Consul General for the Netherlands in Sydney during the Second World War and also in Sinpgapore, New York and Brazil. He was knighted in The Netherlands (Ridder in de orde van de Nederlandse Leeuw) and was honoured with the Southern Cross of Brazil.

  5. Thanks for that, Thomas, and for contacting Henri and resolving this little mystery. I have passed on the news that the painting is not "lost" (even though I don't know exactly where it is) and is safe in the arms of the family. Gay Hendricksen, the curator at Parramatta Heritage, was rather excited when I told her.

  6. Geoff - an Adelaide art historian/researcher is most keen to locate the whereabouts of the portrait of Madame Schuurman by Nora Heysen. As you have discovered, existing photographs are rare and of poor quality. The researcher, Dr Catherine Speck, would like to obtain a good quality photograph of the portrait. Do you think a link to Henri Schuurmann would assist our search? or, do you have any later information on the portrait yourself?
    I am assisting Dr Speck with her research and her bone fides can be verified at University of Adelaide.
    Yours, Wende D

  7. Maybe you can help. I am trying to find Julien and Guillaume, sons of Joy Elink Schuurman. Many thanks in advance.

  8. I found a picture of this painting here

  9. That's better than the photo I found, which was in a digitised newspaper. The full colour version would be nice to see. Suppose I'll have to buy the book or go to France to see that.