Peter Pan: The boy who never grew up, for sale at Bonhams

Decorative Arts from 1860
19 Jun 2013
London, New Bond Street

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 favourite) 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'.


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  1. Mark Oliver
    Montpelier Street
    London, United Kingdom SW7 1HH
    Work +44 20 7393 3856
    FaxFax: +44 20 7493 0759

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