Wall relief in the main hall of TNO-PML, Rijswijk
In the main hall of the TNO Prins Maurits Building (Rijswijk), there is a wall relief with Prince Maurits and Simon Stevin, surrounded by their groundbreaking inventions. Prof. L.O. Wenckebach and H.J. Etienne designed that wall relief. The wall relief was produced by the De Porceleyne Fles (Royal Delft).
Frits Benschop, editor of the TNO PML staff magazine “Bericht in Zicht” wrote an article in 2000 about Henk Etienne (1895-1968) as a versatile Delft sculptor. The article also describes his search for the origins of the wall relief.
He wrote: “The search for the life and work of the Delft sculptor H.J. Etienne did not proceed according to a well-considered plan but was purely coincidental. For me, as editor of the institute magazine of the Prins Maurits Laboratory TNO in Rijswijk, it was obvious to dedicate several short contributions to the namesake of the laboratory. Applied scientific research for national defence is carried out at the Prins Maurits Laboratory. Applied scientific research for national defence is carried out at the Prins Maurits Laboratory (PML). By linking the Prince’s name to the laboratory, the statesman is honoured for being the first to call on the help of a mathematician and engineer in the person of Simon Stevin (1548-1620) in the battle against the Spaniards.
The commemorative book, published on the 15th anniversary of the National Defence Organization TNO in 1962, states that on October 4, 1957, a wall relief designed by Prof. L.O. Wenckebach and H.J. Etienne was unveiled in the hall of the Prins Maurits Building in Rijswijk and manufactured by ‘Royal Delft’. Both designers are now deceased and we must also remember that at that time many matters were only arranged orally.
To our surprise, a note was found at Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles (Royal Delft) showing that this company’s contribution to the production of this work of art consisted of firing the clay and the glaze layers. A second surprise was that H J. Etienne’s son worked for years as a scientific employee at TNO and was now enjoying his retirement and could tell me a lot about his father’s career.”
“As the son of the designer of the wall relief, he outlined with reasonable certainty that the course of events regarding the plaque at the time proceeded as follows. In 1956, the owner of the Prins Maurits Building thought it appropriate to visibly record the collaboration between defence and natural science in national defence in the main hall of the building. An obvious choice was the collaboration between Prince Maurits and Simon Stevin. Stevin was the first scientist engaged by the Stadtholder (governor) for national defence.
In 1956, H.J. Etienne had already carried out many commissions for the production of sculptures in Delft and he was widely known. It was therefore very obvious that he received the assignment via his ‘boss’ L.O. Wenckebach. TNO probably went to Wenckebach with the idea of recording the collaboration between Prince Maurits and Simon Stevin. Wenckebach subsequently collected Stevin’s achievements in text and drawings in the library and handed over the further elaboration to his assistant Etienne. Knowing that the father (H.J. Etienne) paid a lot of attention to the final result, it is almost certain that many test samples went to the Porceleyne Fles. After all, the applied paint layer undergoes a colour change as a result of heating during glazing that can never be completely predicted.”
- 15 jaar Rijksverdedigingsorganisatie TNO 1947-1962
- Frits Benschop, “Henk Etienne (1895-1968): Een veelzijdig Delfts beeldhouwer“, Delfia Batavorum (2000)
- PML Vaarwel