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Marianne Johanna Adriana van Wessem collection

Identifier: ubl141

Scope and Contents

The collection includes original photographs and watercolours by Walter Spies, the famous German born painter, musician, photographer and Bali expert.

Walter Spies was born in Moscow 1895 and died 19 January 1942 on the sinking ship the ‘von Imhoff’, on its way to British India. Spies was active in Java from 1923 and in Bali from 1927 until his internment in May 1940 by the Dutch authorities, due to his German citizenship. The collection consists further of photographs, correspondence, manuscript and printed documentation in relation to Walter Spies and to Mrs Van Wessem curatorship at the Bali Museum in Denpasar.

The collection was registered in 1999 under the classmark Or. 25.188.


  • Creation: 1937-1978
  • Creation: Bulk 1939-1947

Language of Materials

German, English, Dutch

Conditions Governing Use

Regulations that apply during the use of these materials can be found on the website of Leiden University Library.

Biographical / Historical

Marianne Johanna Adriana van Wessem (born Zaandam, 28 October 1892, died Naarden, 25 September 1980) was the third child of Jan Willem van Wessem and Johanna Maria Laan. She took a bachelor’s degree in literature in Leiden and followed courses at the School for Social Work (School voor Maatschappelijk Werk) in Amsterdam. After World War I she spent several years in Zurich and studied psychology with Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), and graphology with Dr Ludwig Klages (1872-1956) and Dr Max Pulver (1889-1952). She took also courses in drawing and painting, and philosophy. When the new Museum of Asiatic Art was created in 1932 in the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum, she was appointed assistant curator. In 1937 she undertook a study tour on behalf of the Museum, travelled to India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and the mainland of Southeast Asia , and arrived in Java in March 1938. In Bali, where she was supposed to stay a few days, she met Walter Spies (1895-1942), the famous painter, musician, photographer and Bali expert, and she eventually settled alternately in Denpasar and Ubud. In 1939 she became secretary of Pita Maha, the association of Balinese painters and sculptors founded in 1936 as an initiative of the prince from Ubud Cokorde Gde Agung Sukawati, Walter Spies, the Dutch painter Rudolph Bonnet (1895-1978), and the Balinese painter and sculptor I Gusti Nyoman Lempad (c. 1862-1978). After having served as assistant curator for a while, Marianne van Wessem succeeded Walter Spies in the course of 1939 as curator of the Bali Museum in Denpasar. She kept this position untill her own internment in January 1943 as a consequence of the Japanese invasion and the Dutch capitulation in 1942. After her release from the camp, and a period spent in Bandung, she resumed her activities in Denpasar untill her departure from Indonesia in the the course of 1947. Her first destination was Los Angeles.

When Walter Spies was interned in 1940 due to his German citizenship, his belongings were confiscated by the Dutch. Through the intermediary of her lawyer M. van Wessem bought the bungalows (Campuan) in Ubud and their content. After her own internment, first in Malang then in Lampersari (Semarang), she could no longer look after Campuan. The bungalows were looted by thieves and the Japanese.

Marianne van Wessem married Dr Wicher Gosen Nicolaas van der Sleen (1886-1964) in 1949 in Brussels. She was his third wife. Trained as a biologist and chemist, Van der Sleen took his PHD degree in Amsterdam in 1912, was teacher of biology, and director of his own laboratory in Haarlem. He made name as a globetrotter, photographer, filmmaker and passionate collector, who extensively published his travel impressions, and deed pioneering research on beads. Van Wessem and Van der Sleen became befriended in Bali in 1939 and travelled together in 1941 over Sumatra. After his release from war camp in Java, Van der Sleen travelled to America where Marianne van Wessem met him in 1947. The couple travelled extensively in North America, Mexico, and in South and Central Africa before they definitely settled in Naarden in 1956. Photographs made by Van der Sleen in Indonesia in 1929 and 1939-1942, and in Mexico in 1948 are also part of the collection Van Wessem. The Museum of the Tropics (Tropenmuseum) in Amsterdam holds hundreds of his photographs and negatives. His collections of artefacts are spread over several musea.


7 metres

Abstract in Dutch

De collectie oorspronkelijk afkomstig van Marianne van der Sleen-van Wessem (1892-1980), op Bali bevriend met de Duitse schilder, musicus en fotograaf Walter Spies (1895-1942), bestaat hoofdzakelijk uit documenten die betrekking hebben op deze kunstenaar en Bali kenner en op Balinese beeldende en uitvoerende kunsten. Originele foto’s en enkele tekeningen van Walter Spies behoren tot deze collectie.

Abstract in English

The collection which originally belonged to Marianne van der Sleen-van Wessem (1892-1980), close friend in Bali of the German painter, musician and photographer Walter Spies (1895-1942), consists mainly of documents pertaining to this artist and Bali expert and to Balinese plastic and performing arts. Original photographs and drawings by Walter Spies are part of the collection as well.


Or. 25.188

Printed documentation in relation to Walter Spies


Ten sheaves with handwritten, typed and printed materials

Several envelopes containing photographs, notes and papers

Watercolours (7) of marine animals by Walter Spies

Portfolio marked ‘Bali – Museum / Den Pasar’

Sheaf marked ‘Rudolf Bonnet’

Walter Spies / Lamak designs / music scores

Photographs of Sumatra, Bali, India, Ceylon, Mexico, South America

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

By way of the inventory

Custodial History

Estate of Mrs Marianne van der Sleen-van Wessem (1892-1980) and afterwards from the estate of the latter’s niece, Mrs Clara A. Huwyler-Welcker. Marianne van Wessem’s papers were sorted out and arranged by her niece who bequeathed them to the Leiden Library (see letter by Mrs. Huwyler-Welcker to Hans Rhodius, dated 2 July 1983, in Collection Walter Spies Foundation Holland, shelfmark Spies 31).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection brought together by Marianne van Wessem was presented to the Leiden Library by Mr Hans-Rudi Huwyler in June 1998. This gentleman was the widower of Clara A. Huwyler-Welcker, Mrs Van Wessem’s niece and one of her heirs.


No future additions are to be expected.

Existence and Location of Copies

Microfilms A1022 a-b

Related Materials

Collection Stichting Walter Spies Holland / Walter Spies Foundation

Collection Daisy Spies (Or. 25.773)

Collection Galestin (Or. 20.965, inv. nrs. 225-238)

Collection Paul Spies (Or. 22.309)

Collection C.J. Grader (Or. 26.645, correspondence)

Microfilms of material pertaining to Walter Spies held outside the University Library Leiden (see Collection Stichting Walter Spies Holland / Walter Spies Foundation)

Kern Collection, Leiden, photographs by Walter Spies


  • Gruyter, Jos. W. de, Het nieuwe museum van Aziatische kunst in het Stedelijk Museum te Amsterdam, Elsevier’s geïllustreerd maandschrift (July 1932), pp. 78-80.
  • Gruyter, W. Jos de (ed.), Walter Spies, 1895-1942: Haags Gemeentemuseum 2/7-16/8 1964, Den Haag, 1964 [exhibition catalogue].
  • Hitchcock, Michael and Lucy Norris, Bali: the imaginary museum: the photographs of Walter Spies and Beryl de Zoete, Kuala Lumpur, 1995.
  • Pita Maha, Djawa XVI (1936), pp. 143-144.
  • Rhodius, Hans, Reichtum und Schönheit des Lebens : Walter Spies (Maler und Musiker auf Bali 1895-1942): eine Autobiographie in Briefen mit ergänzenden Erinnerungen, ’s Gravenhage 1964 [see pp. 398-406, memories of M. van Wessem]
  • Rhodius, Hans and John Darling (John Stowell ed.), Walter Spies and Balinese art, Zutphen 1980
  • Roever-Bonnet, H. de, Rudolf Bonnet: een zondagskind, Wijk en Aalburg, 1993.
  • Spruit, Ruud, Kunstenaars op Bali: W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp, Rudolf Bonnet, Walter Spies, Willem Hofker, A.J. Le Mayeur, Arie Smit / Ruud Spruit, Amsterdam 1995
  • Stowell, John, Walter Spies: a life in art, Jakarta 2011 [forthcoming]
  • Zoete, Beryl de and Walter Spies, Dance and drama in Bali, London 1938.


The material of this collection can be requested at the Special Collections Reading Room

Processing Information

There is an inventory available

Collection guide of the Marianne Johanna Adriana van Wessem collection (1937-1978)
Collectie Marianne Johanna Adriana van Wessem
Marie-Odette Scalliet, 2009
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Beschrijving is in het Engels.

Revision Statements

  • 3 June 2020: latest update

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

Witte Singel 27
Leiden 2311 BG Netherlands
+31 71 527 2857