Penelope Boothby Information (Person)

From Wikipedia

Penelope Boothby
Penelope Boothby by Joshua Reynolds.jpg
Penelope Boothby in 1788 on a painting by Joshua Reynolds
Born(1785-04-11)11 April 1785
Died13 March 1791(1791-03-13) (aged 5)
Occupation Model

Penelope Boothby (11 April 1785 – 13 March 1791) was a girl who has become one of the most famous child characters in British art. Her image inspired the paintings by Joshua Reynolds, Henry Fuseli, John Everett Millais, a sculpture by Thomas Banks, photographs of Lewis Carroll, sonnet of Brooke Boothby. [1]

The Apotheosis of Penelope Boothby by Henry Fuseli.
Thomas Banks. Tombstone of Penelope Boothby, 1793

According to art historians and historians, in the art of the 19th-20th centuries Penelope Boothby became a classic child of the Romantic era, the keeper of heavenly innocence, a symbol of “what we have lost and what we are afraid to lose.” [1] The image of Penelope was actively exploited by popular culture throughout the 20th century. [2]


She was the daughter of Sir Brooke Boothby (1744-1824), linguist, translator and poet, and his wife, Susanna Bristoe (1755-1822). [3] Boothby highly appreciated the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and was the translator of his works). [2] Penelope's father inherited the title in 1789, was also an amateur botanist, and collaborated in his research with Erasmus Darwin. He was well acquainted with several activists of the Blue Stockings Society. and was known as a connoisseur of fine arts and philanthropist. [1]

At the age of three (in July 1788), Penelope became a model for the outstanding British artist Joshua Reynolds in his London studio (for the painting “Portrait of Penelope Boothby,” or “Cap”, London National Gallery). [1]

Shortly after completing the portrait, Boothby and his daughter returned to Derbyshire, where his family estate Ashbourne was located. Penelope probably spent the rest of her short life at Ashbourne Hall. [3] Penelope was a quiet girl who preferred playing with dolls in solitude to any noisy fuss, although she had a cheerful disposition. She loved her father very much and waited at the gates of his return home, and in the evenings sat on his lap. On Sundays in the morning, she accompanied her mother to the old Ashbourne church and knelt beside her during the service. All this and much more can be learned from the book “Sorrows Sacred to the Memory of Penelope”, written by her father. The book includes 24 sonnets. [4] She died in 1791 a month before her sixth birthday, after an illness that lasted about a month. She was unsuccessfully treated by Erasmus Darwin.

Her grieving father also memorialized his child with the commission of a painting by Henry Fuseli depicting Penelope taken up to heaven in the arms of an angel and a sculpture by Thomas Banks for her tomb that depicts her asleep.


  1. ^ a b c d Mitchell, Rosemary. "Boothby, Penelope (1785–1791)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 8 September 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  2. ^ a b Warren, Richard (24 September 2012). "Moppets, muffets and the perpetuation of Penelope Boothby". Richard Warren. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  3. ^ a b Flukinger, Roy. "For his most famous child portrait, Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) drew inspiration from an eighteenth-century painting". Cultural Compass at the Harry Ransom Center. The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  4. ^ Hurll, Estelle M. (2006). "Penelope Boothby". Sir Joshua Reynolds. A Collection of Fifteen Pictures and a Portrait of the. Painter with Introduction and Interpretation. Boston, New York: The Riverside Press Cambridge. pp. 1–6.