A small boy, aged perhaps two or three, wearing a sailor's cap. ?Possibly a portrait of Francis Walter Cotman (1816-1852)
|Artist:||John Sell Cotman, British, 1782 - 1842|
|Associated Person:||Francis Walter Cotman, British|
|Title:||A small boy, aged perhaps two or three, wearing a sailor's cap. ?Possibly a portrait of Francis Walter Cotman (1816-1852)|
|Medium:||Graphite on laid paper|
Sight size: 229 mm x 102 mm
Mount: 381 mm x 247 mm
|Credit Line:||Bequeathed by Sydney Decimus Kitson, 1949|
This is a confident and deft graphite drawing of a child perhaps two or three years old, standing facing the viewer with hands tucked into a jerkin, barefoot and wearing rolled-up trousers, a striped shirt and a sailor's cap. The drawing is made on two pieces of paper, fastened together with two pins.
Kitson's initial description of the subject was 'Portrait of a small boy', but he later came to inscribe the back of the mount 'Perhaps Cotman's third son Walter/ See pencil drawing in British Museum/ (No.320) inscribed 'Walter. Jany 25, 1824'
Francis Walter Cotman 1816-1852 was Cotman's fourth child. The British Museum drawing (1902.0514.230) is an inconclusive comparison, for whilst it certainly records Francis Walter, he is eight years old in that depiction. Nor is it impossible that the present drawing records a little girl, but the sailor's outfit seems to suggest a boy. If Francis Walter, the drawing would most likely date to the summer of 1819, when Cotman was at home in Yarmouth. It could easily record a day at the beach.
Kitson's 1937 catalogue further records that the lower piece of paper was originally larger and carried another drawing (LEEAG.1949.0009.0367) of 'A woman with a small child at a market stall'. He separated the two and catalogued them individually. The current accession numbers are widely disparate, and obscure the relationship between the two drawings. It seems likely that the other drawing is a Yarmouth or Southtown subject.
The sheet was one of six (Kitson 1937 numbers 338-343) that were originally mounted on a single large backing sheet (XI). The group was bought in that form by Sydney Kitson in June 1928, but he subsequently mounted the drawings individually. It is hard to see a strong rationale for the grouping of drawings on this sheet, except that the first three appear to be early drawings, and the remainder figure subjects. What the connection between these can have been is unclear, and all seem to have come from miscellaneous sources.
David Hill, November 2017