Cape Town - Chiselled features, flowing locks and a manicured moustache. It’s a face that has been immortalised in South African history books, not to mention the paper currency introduced after the country became a republic in 1961.
But, as it turns out, the portrait, a symbol of national pride during the apartheid era, is not of Jan van Riebeeck, but most likely of a Dutch local who never even set foot in the country.
It’s not a new discovery, just not a well-known one. In fact, the owner of Rob’s Coins in Church Street – who sells the old notes illustrated with his portrait – said he was taught at school that the image was of South Africa’s first settler.
“I really don’t know who it is now,” he said as he slipped the paper money back into a plastic folder.
Jonkheer van Kretschmar, a genealogist, concluded in 1984 that the painting from which the image was borrowed was not of Van Riebeeck, the man who arrived with three ships in Table Bay in 1652.