Dr. Nicolas Schlumberger ca. 1926

Half-length portrait in oblique view from the left, the head slightly inclined, the gaze directed towards the viewer, but not looking directly at him. The sitter, with a high forehead, black hair and pronounced eyebrows, is wearing a military uniform with the rank insignia of a captain (three stars on a golden background) and the number 28 in silver on his epaulette, which identifies him as a member of Dragoon Squadron 28, a cavalry unit recruited from citizens of the city and canton of Basel. He is wearing a leather belt across his chest. The background is depicted as a stylized landscape with a cloudy sky.

JQAW# P_1926_050
Oil on canvas 75 x 60 cm
Signature: John Quincy Ɑdams
Private collection USA
Picture: courtesy of Beurret-Bailly-Widmer, Basel, CH

Dr.jur. Nicolas (Niklas) „Niki“ Schlumberger, 6.12.1894 Basel (CH) to 1.7.1975 Basel (CH), banker and officer.
Nicolas Schlumberger was born into an important business family that originally came from Alsace (F) and played a significant role in the economic life of the city of Basel (CH). His grandfather Amédée Sch. (1833-1905) acquired Basel citizenship in 1872 and joined the private bank Ehinger & Cie. as a partner in 1873, also serving as Vice President of the Basler Bankverein from 1893-96. His son Charles Schl. (1861-1934, see his Adams portrait from 1927) followed him in his positions. Charles’ son Nicolas, in turn, also joined Bank Ehinger & Cie after completing his law studies and was also involved in several companies or served as a member of their boards. After the Second World War, he sold his shares in Bank Ehinger and lived largely as a private person following his private interests. He was also an officer in the Swiss army, where he served from 1925 with the rank of captain as commander of the 28th Dragoon Squadron (and was also portrayed in this position by Adams) and reached the rank of colonel of the general staff.

Nicolas Sch. married his cousin Marie-Luise Staehelin (1902-1997) on February 17, 1925; his brother Charles Amédée (1895-1984) in turn married Alice Staehelin (1904-1999), Marie-Luise's sister. The marriage of Nicolas and Marie-Luise Sch., which was blessed with three daughters, ended in divorce (29.3.1938, see also the catalog entry of the Adams portrait of Marie-Luise Sch. from 1927). The failed marriage was later (1989) scathingly described in his wife's memoirs, which she published under the pseudonym Diane d'Henri. Nicolas Sch.'s second marriage (April 28, 1938) was to Claire Rose Boegli (1901-2002). Both are buried at Therwil cemetery near Basel. Nicolas Schlumberger's private hobbies included mountaineering (he had been a member of the Swiss Alpine Club SAC since 1918) and above all his passion for equestrian sports, which he shared with his sister Henriette (see her Adams portrait from 1926). One expression of this passion was that Nicolas had all his horses portrayed, as reported by his grandson Roy Cortell (Zeitlupe 85 [2007] issue 10:80-81).

The portrait of Nicolas Schlumberger, likely painted in 1926, is one of a whole series of portraits of the Schlumberger family that Adams made in Basel in 1926-1927. The contact probably came about through Nicolas' sister Marguerite "Tit" (first and second version of her portrait in 1926), who was studying music in Vienna. Adams also painted portraits of Nicolas' sister Henriette (1926) and Nicolas' wife Marie-Luise (portrait from 1927, not located), as well as Nicolas' father Charles Schlumberger (portrait from 1927, not located) and possibly his mother Emilie, née Vischer (1867-1946). Stylistically, the portrait is characteristic of the artist's mature late style, which perfectly captures the character and physiognomy of the sitter. The work, previously unknown in Adams' literature, was sold as lot 1 at an auction at Beurret-Bailly-Widmer in Basel on June 27, 2023. There, the portrait was simply labeled "Portrait of an Officer". The sitter was identified as Dr. Nicolas Schlumberger on the basis of his service uniform. At the auction, the painting came into the possession of one of the artist's family descendants in the USA.

Acknowledgments: The kind support of Jürg Burlet and Henri Habegger of the Swiss Army Museum Association VSAM made it possible to identify the sitter by name.




Auction 27. June 2023 Beurret-Bailly-Widmer, Basel, Lot 1.
Private collection, USA.