One of the joys of publishing our catalogues are the responses we receive from the amazing community of scholars, collectors and friends who read them. They frequently throw unexpected and exciting new light on the pictures we include. In our latest catalogue we had a particularly beautiful and compelling drawing by the little known British draughtsman, Benjamin Burnell depicting two unknown boys. Two readers have brilliantly helped establish their identities.
When we acquired the drawing, we had only three details: Burnell’s signature with the date 1802; the name of a single previous owner ‘Mrs Vernon Delves Broughton’ and the fact that one of the boys was wearing the distinctive uniform of Christ’s Hospital. After a cursory search for Delves Broughtons in the list of Christ’s Hospital drew a blank, I am afraid to say I did not pursue the provenance further. But Connie McPhee cleverly spotted that ‘Mrs Vernon Delves Broughton’ had also previously owned the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s enchanting portrait drawing of Charlotte Papendiek and her son by Thomas Lawrence, which is dated 1789. She had been born Augusta Anne Arbuthnot and was the granddaughter of Charlotte Papendiek, she had also prepared Charlotte Papendiek’s famous journals from her time at the court of King George III and Queen Charlotte for publication in 1887.
This was a tantalising clue and it raised the possibility that our drawing by Burnell, a Lawrence pupil, also depicted members of the Papendiek family. We were then contacted by Michael Kassler who has prepared a new scholarly edition of Charlotte Papendiek’s journals for publication (published by Routledge and well worth acquiring) who confirmed that her eldest son, Frederick Henry, was at Christ’s Hospital in 1802. Frederick Henry Papendiek would have been 15 at the time and as he was the only one of the Papendieks to attend the school, it seems that the standing figure on the left of our drawing is indeed him. This is particularly exciting, as Frederick Henry is the small child depicted in the Lawrence drawing now at the Metropolitan Museum.
Michael Kassler has also brilliantly pointed out that whilst at Christ’s Hospital, Frederick Henry Papendiek was a close friend of the literary critic Leigh Hunt. I am quoting, with Michael Kassler’s permission, Hunt’s recollection of his school friend:
My last friend (for the others, when they left school, never saw me again ...) was a boy of the name of Papendick, son of one of the pages to the Queen. He died a clergyman, many years back. He was fair, with a blooming complexion & blue eyes; and almost seemed of too fragile a texture to come among us. This apparent helplessness, combined with a sort of royal dispensation of cakes & apples which he delighted to deal about him, & which my notions made me at once delight to see him do to others & refuse to partake of myself, attracted me towards him; & I became his protector, adviser, & unbounded assistant on all occasions. ...
Papendick, with his court connexion, excited my vanity. [I be]came acquainted with his family, who were of German stock, and had the German [pa]ssion for music. The elder sister, now Mrs O.., was handsome & accomplished. The younger, who died a few years afterwards of a consumption, was not so handsome, but she was delicate & interesting. They played on the piano-forte; Mr Papendick the father, who was a ﬁne ﬂute-player, accompanied them; & I was in heaven. Among the things they played [blank space] which I suppose had just come out. I was enchanted with the choral movement on the words ‘Strike the harp’, which haunted me for a long while. It was here I learnt the name of Mozart, whose march-accompaniment in Figaro I had become acquainted with on the parade in St James’s Park, without knowing whose it was. Mozart was not known in England at that time out of the musical circles, perhaps not out of the German ones. ... As for the Papendicks, my enhancement was completed by fancying that I was in love. Friendship for a brother is a natural road to love for a sister. The elder sister was above me in age & every thing. The delicate health of the younger, & the manners consequent upon it, seemed to demand my sympathy; & I set about sympathizing accordingly, while she knew not a syllable about the matter.’
So here at least we have identified the ‘fragile’ sitter ‘fair, with a blooming complexion & blue eyes’ in Burnell’s drawing. So very many thanks to both Connie McPhee and Michael Kassler, we are enormously grateful to you for your fascinating information.
The portrait itself is still available and despite this fascinating additional information the price remains the same, a very modest £8,000!