Sir Joshua Reynolds – Penelope Boothby Or The Mob Cap

Questions to arouse interest. Where do you think this little girl is sitting? Does she look as if she were sitting still or moving? Do you think she is happy, sad, full of fun, or mischievous? What has she on her head? How is her hair combed? How is she dressed? What has she on her hands? In what way is she different from the little girls we know? What can you see behind her? How many like this picture? why?

Original Picture : Mrs. Thwaite’s Private Collection.

Artist: Sir Joshua Reynolds (rén’üldz).

Birthplace : Plympton, England.

Dates: Born, 1723; died, 1792.

The story of the picture. This quaint little Penelope Boothby, sitting so prim with her queer cap and black silk mitts, looks as if she knows a secret that pleases her very much. Perhaps that dress she is. wearing is long, and she is pretending she is some great lady who has just come to call upon the artist, Sir Joshua Reynolds. It must have been fun to walk about his great yard, with her long dress sweeping over the soft green grass. It looks as if the artist had lifted her into the window of his studio, and painted her as she sat there. The half mischievous look on her face makes us think she will jump down and run out among the trees at any moment. We wonder what makes her look so pleased.

Perhaps Sir Joshua Reynolds is telling her a story — maybe the one about his father. He lived in the country and one day decided to go to town on horseback. It had rained very hard, and the roads were muddy, so he wore high-topped boots. These boots were a little large for him, and as he rode along, swinging his feet, for he was riding bareback, one of his boots fell off. He was thinking of other things, and did not miss his boot until he rode into town and wanted to go into the store. Imagine how he must have felt when he discovered his loss.

” One boot on and one boot off, How the neighbors laugh and scoff; Such an absent-minded man Ne’er was seen since the world began.”

Or perhaps Sir Joshua was telling her about his friend, the sea captain named Admiral Keppel, with whom he took that wonderful trip across the sea.

But best of all she would like to hear the story of that strange little Italian boy he met in Rome. One day a little fellow had offered to be Sir Joshua Reynolds’s guide about the great city. He was so small, ragged, and dirty that Sir Joshua gave him some money and told him to run away. But the little fellow smiled happily, showing all his white teeth; his dark eyes fairly danced, he was so eager to show the artist what a good guide he could be. All that day he followed Sir Joshua, and as he had lived in Rome all his life, he knew all about the city and could tell the great painter many interesting things.

The next morning Sir Joshua found the boy sitting on his doorstep waiting for him. He let the little fellow carry his paints and brushes, and off they started. And so it happened every day, until finally one day Sir Joshua gave the boy an easel, and some paints and brushes, and taught him how to paint. And oh, how pleased the little boy was then! He had a very strange name. It was Giuseppe Marchi. After he had been with Sir Joshua Reynolds a week you would hardly have recognized the boy, dressed in a fine new suit of clothes the artist had bought for him, and painting pictures which were very good indeed.

Then the time came for Sir Joshua to start for home; but Giuseppe Marchi was not to be left behind. At that time Sir Joshua was not a very wealthy man, and when they were still three hundred miles from Paris he counted his money and found he had only enough to pay his own fare; so he had to say good-by to poor Giuseppe Marchi. In Paris, Sir Joshua had a good friend with whom he could stay. Imagine his surprise one morning to find Giuseppe Marchi sitting on the doorstep of this friend’s house! The boy had walked all those miles, and had at last found his dear master. So then of course Sir Joshua brought him on home with him.

Perhaps, just when Sir Joshua was telling Penelope this part of the story, Giuseppe Marchi himself came into the room, for he lived with the artist all the rest of his life, and helped him paint part of his pictures, too. Sir Joshua Reynolds spoke of him as ” an angel sent from God to help me do my work.”

When the artist painted this picture little girls must have worn caps like this, for we see them in some of his other pictures, too. They were called “mob caps.”

Nearly a hundred years after this picture was painted a great party was given in London for the children. All were to wear fancy dresses to represent some person of whom the rest should guess the identity. One little girl dressed as “Penelope Boothby.” She had a cap just like this one, a handkerchief worn like this, and a pair of black silk mitts. Every one knew at once whom she represented, and she was so much admired that the next day she was taken to another great artist, Millais. He painted a beautiful picture of the little girl holding some cherries in her hands, and called his picture “Cherry Ripe.”

Questions to help the pupil understand the picture. What is this little girl’s name? What do you suppose she has been playing? Where is she sitting? why? What stories could Sir Joshua Reynolds tell her? Tell the story of his father and the high-topped boots; of the little Italian boy. Why did Sir Joshua send the boy away at first? What did the boy do for Sir Joshua? What happened the next morning? What did they do every day after that? What did Sir Joshua teach the boy to do? What made the boy look so different after a week? When Sir Joshua started home, what did the boy do? Why could he not go all the way? How did he manage to follow the artist? What did Sir Joshua do for the boy then? Where was the boy when Sir Joshua Reynolds was telling this story? How did the artist, often speak of this Italian boy? Why do you think Penelope Boothby would like to hear this story? Does she look as if she were listening, or talking? Why do you think you would like to know her?

To the Teacher : Ask a little girl to pose as Penelope Boothby. She may be seated upon a table and drawn side view. Other pictures may be drawn illustrating the story of a little girl dressed in a long dress and walking proudly among the trees ; or of the artist and his little Italian guide. Use manila paper and charcoal. Work for action.

The story of the artist. When Sir Joshua Reynolds was a little boy it was decided that he should become a doctor. His father and mother set their hearts upon it, and resolved to help him in every way. Though he loved to draw, it did not seem then as if he would ever become an artist, for his five brothers and sisters could all draw better than he. ‘The children used so much paper and so many pencils that finally the father told them they might draw upon the whitewashed walls in the hall of their house. They used burnt sticks for pencils. It must have been quite as much fun as to draw with white chalk on the blackboard.

Little Joshua’s drawings were so funny that the older children always laughed when they saw them and called him the clown. But he did not care; he just kept on drawing until one day he drew a picture which was’ really very good. It was of their schoolhouse and he drew it with a pencil on paper. It was so well drawn that every one praised it, and he was very proud indeed. He was only seven years old, and this praise pleased him so much that he kept thinking of it all the time. That day at school he covered his number paper with drawings of things about the room. His father taught the school, and you can imagine how he felt when his son handed in a paper which he could not read because of the drawings all over it. He began to fear Joshua would never make a good doctor or business man, so he wrote at the top of the paper, ” Done by Joshua out of pure idleness.”

One day a man came to their town who could draw any person’s picture while he waited. Then, too, he could cut a silhouette picture or side view of the face out of black paper. Joshua followed him about all day, and the two became great friends. The artist gave Joshua lessons and the boy soon learned to draw as well as his teacher. We are told that it was through the friendship of this strolling artist that a rich man’s attention was called to Joshua’s wish to be an artist, and this rich man finally persuaded the father to let Joshua go to London to study.

It was about this time, too, that while at church he drew a picture of the minister on his thumb nail. From this tiny sketch he painted a large portrait on a piece of sail which he found on the river bank near an old boathouse. His paints were some the sailors used to paint their boats. When his father saw this portrait, which was so very like the minister, he knew that his son would surely be a great artist, and he gave up all thought of trying to make a doctor of him.

In London, Reynolds studied painting in earnest, and wrote home, “While I am doing this, I am the happiest creature alive.” He painted the portraits of several well-known men, and soon became very popular.

Then came Admiral Keppel and the wonderful voyage on the ship which he commanded. Upon Sir Joshua’s return home he painted a fine portrait of his friend, the Admiral, which every one wanted to see many times.

It was not long before Sir Joshua Reynolds became a rich man, and bought a beautiful home with a large yard full of beautiful trees. His sister came to keep house for him, and later his little niece Offy came to live with him. He loved children dearly, and always kept pets and playthings for them. He entertained them so happily that they always wanted to come to see him.

Questions about the artist. What did Sir Joshua Reynolds’s father and mother want him to be when he grew up? How many brothers and sisters did he have? How did his drawings compare with theirs? Why did they not draw with paper and pencils? Where were they allowed to draw? What did they call Joshua? Of what did he make his first good picture? What did people say about it? How old was he then? How did he spoil his number paper? What did his father write at the top of his paper? Tell about the strolling artist and what he did for Joshua. Tell about Joshua’s portrait of the minister. What did his father decide after seeing this portrait? What else did Sir Joshua Reynolds do? Tell about his house and yard. What kind of pictures did he paint? Why do you think he was considered a great artist?