Fairytale ending hides tragedy of author's childhood loss

Peter Pan, a bronze study after the character created by the author J.M Barrie, will be offered for sale in the Decorative Arts sale, Bonhams New Bond Street on 19th June. Signed by the artist Sir George Frampton and inscribed 'PP', this study in the image of the 1912 original is estimated to sell for £35,000-£45,000.

The original statue Peter Pan stands in Kensington Gardens, London. It was commissioned by J.M Barrie himself and was erected secretly overnight, appearing one May morning in 1912. Only seven more casts were made of the work and Peter Pan stands, pan-pipe in hand, in cities around the world where his story is cherished.

Mark Oliver, Director of Decorative Arts at Bonhams, said of the work, "Very few castings of this bronze are known and it is rare for an example to come to auction in such good condition. I anticipate a lot of interest from collectors of period child studies as well as fans of this iconic Barrie creation".

J.M Barrie, the author of Peter Pan: The Boy who Wouldn't Grow Up, was the ninth of ten children and was born in as small town near Dundee, Scotland in 1860. When the author was six years old, his older brother David (supposedly their mother's favorite) died in an ice-skating accident two days before his fourteenth birthday. The devastated Mrs Barrie took comfort in the fact that David would remain a child in her memory, never to grow up and leave her. Barrie tried to fill his brother's place, wearing David's clothes and whistling his tunes. It has been suggested that Peter Pan's character was based on the author's ageless brother.

In later life, Barrie had a close relationship with the Llewellyn Davies family whose five sons were named George, John, Peter, Michael and Nicholas. Barrie first met George, John and baby Peter with their nanny while walking his Saint Bernard dog in London's Kensington gardens. It is said that Barrie entertained the eldest children with stories that their baby brother, Peter, could fly.

'Uncle Jim', as Barrie was known to the Llewellyn Davies boys, became even closer to the family after the death of their father, providing financial support and friendship to their mother, Sylvia. When Sylvia died in 1910, her will left the boys in the guardianship of their grandmother, two uncles and 'J.M.B'. However, when transcribing Sylvia's will, Barrie inserted his name in other places. Where Sylvia stipulated that Mary Hodgson the children's nanny should continue to care for the boys and that her sister 'Jenny' should help, Barrie entered, 'Jimmy'. Barrie and Mary Hodgson did not get along, perhaps explaining the replacement of a nanny in the Peter Pan stories with a female Saint Bernard dog named 'nanna'.


NOTES FOR EDITORS

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com

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  1. Sarah Gubbins
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