Meet Birgit Holmquist, A Woman Whose Statue Stands in Smygehuk, Sweden


Birgit Holmquist was the mother of Mexican-born Swedish-American fashion model Nena von Schlebrugge. She was born in March 6, 1911 in Trelleborg, Skane County, Sweden to Albert Emil Fredrick Holmquist and Julie Tora Holmquist.

Personal Life

Birgit Holmquist married Friedrich Karl Johannes von Schlebrugge on March 12, 1935. Friedrich was a nobleman and was involved in World War I, serving as a commander. After surviving the war, he ventured into business and was based in Berlin, Germany. During world war II, Birgit’s husband refused to join the military and was imprisoned for protecting the Jews.

Birgit was in love with Friedrich when he was in prison, and she used her Swedish nationality to help him out of jail, and they fled to Mexico together. They were blessed with two children in their marriage, Bjorn von Schlebrugge, and Nena von Schlebrugge.

Her Statue

Birgit worked for Axel Ebbe, a renowned sculptor; she was a model and posed for him in her late teens. Given the close work relationship, Axel sculpted Famntaget, a life-size statue of a naked woman in Smygehuk. The sculpture, modeled after Birgit Holmquist, attracts many people, and some pose for a picture.

Birgit Holmquist’s granddaughter Uma Thurman revealed in an interview that she had gone to Smygehuk and posed for a picture with her grandmother’s statue. The statue was installed in Trelleborg when Birgit was 19 but then moved to its current location in the 1970s.

Her Daughter

Nena started modeling when she was a teen; Norman Parkinson, a Vogue photographer, discovered her in 1995. Two years later, she moved to London with Norman’s help to pursue a fashion modeling career. In London, Birgit’s daughter found success in modeling and was asked to Move to New York City by Eileen Ford to model for the Ford Modeling Agency.

Nena was just 17, working in New York City as a model for Vogue and Harpers’ Bazaar. Besides modeling, Birgit’s daughter tried acting, and she was featured in the film Ciao! Manhattan, though most scenes where she appeared were deleted.

Birgit Holmquist’s daughter was a program director at New York Open Center for two years before serving as Managing Director of Tibet House US from 1991 to 2002.

In her personal life, Nena first married Timothy Leary in 1964, but their marriage did not last long as they were already divorced a year later. Their wedding was recorded in the film, You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You. Two years later, Birgit’s daughter met Robert Thurman, a Buddhist and ex-monk. They were blessed with four children in their marriage, including actress Uma Thurman.

Nena has been married to Robert Thurman for over 50 years, and they have been no rumors of divorce. They have several grandchildren, including Maya Hawke, an American actress, singer, and model.


Birgit Holmquist died on April 10, 1973, aged 62, in Stockholm, Sweden, and was buried in Trelleborg, Skane County, Sweden. Her cause of death was never made public by his family.