A reduction bronze statuette of Peter Pan, “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up”, is to be sold on 11 March at Bonhams New Bond Street salerooms. Created by Sir George Frampton, the sculpture shows the seminal book character with arms outstretched, playing a pipe .It is one of a small number of reductions cast in bronze after the original life size bronze was exhibited by Frampton at The Royal Academy in 1911 and erected in Kensington Gardens the following year.
Many of these reductions are dated between 1913 and 1925, and are signed with the monogram GF. Our example also dates from this period and is also signed with the GF monogram, but is undated. It is also inscribed Peter Pan to the right side of the base which is more unusual, but other casts have been inscribed in other ways, for example another period cast offered for sale at Bonhams was inscribed Geo. Frampton and PP (See Bonhams, London, 19 June 2013 lot 44). It is known that Frampton produced some casts for special commissions, and so it may be that the present reduction was produced for a buyer who specifically wanted the title inscribed into the cast.
The author J.M. Barrie was responsible for the original commission, the figure of Peter was supposed to be modelled on Michael Llewellyn-Davies, one of the five brothers who inspired the story. Barrie sent Frampton pictures of Michael dressed as Peter Pan from which to work but Frampton is not thought to have modelled Peter Pan on Llewellyn Davies as intended but instead used another boy, possibly James W. Shaw or William A. Harwood.
Frampton’s life size version was erected on the spot in Kensington Gardens where Peter Pan appears nightly in J. M Barrie’s first book featuring Peter, Little White Bird (1901). It was secretly placed there overnight on 1 May 1912 with no advance publicity. However Barrie had placed an advert in The Times which came out the next morning stating:
“There is a surprise in store for the children who go to Kensington Gardens to feed the ducks in the Serpentine this morning. Down by the little bay on the south-western side of the tail of the Serpentine they will find a May-day gift by Mr J.M. Barrie, a figure of Peter Pan blowing his pipe on the stump of a tree, with fairies and mice and squirrels all around. It is the work of Sir George Frampton, and the bronze figure of the boy who would never grow up is delightfully conceived.”
The public statue has the figure standing upon a rocky base with fairies, rabbits, mice and squirrels covering the base. The statue was much admired and quickly become a favourite landmark for many adults and children, and is often considered to be the most popular statue in London. Other lifesize versions of the statue were later erected in Sefton Park, Liverpool, Canada, Brussels, Australia and New Jersey. It was the obvious widespread popular appeal of the statue that led Frampton to produce the reductions of the main figure. Some of Frampton’s other notable public sculptures are the lions at the British Museum and the Edith Cavell Memorial that stands outside the National Portrait Gallery, London.
The sculpture carries a pre-sale estimate of £25,000-30,000 which is expected to go higher.