Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of David Papillon (1691-1698) 1700

John Closterman (1665-1711)

Portrait of David Papillon (1691-1698), John Closterman
Oil on canvas
17th Century
49 x 39 inches (124.5 x 99cm)
The sitter's family, c. 1700 Mrs. Annie Slagg, 1954 Mrs. A.H. Papillon, Acrise Place, Kent, 1957 Private Collection, U.S.A.
M. Rogers, Walpole Society Vol. XLIX, 1983, Cat. 73, p. 255 A.Oswald, ''Acrise Place, Kent'' Country Life, 15 August 1957, pp. 300 - 304
The great grandson of sixteenth century Huguenot immigrants, the young David Papillon (1691- 1762) is portrayed in classical garments in an Arcadian scene with a quiver of arrows, an archer's bow and accompanied by his dog. In accordance with the sitter's age, and the chronology of the artist's career, this portrait can be dated roughly to the turn of the eighteenth century, a period which corresponds with Closterman's most prolific period in England. A German painter schooled under a French master, Francois de Troy, Closterman is notable for having contributed a Baroque richness to his depictions of the seventeenth century English face and this sensitive work ranks amongst his most successful single portraits. Highly successful in the 1690''s, he attracted a wealthy and distinguished clientele which included the Dukes of Marlborough and Somerset. Amongst Closterman's most impressive works are a number of detailed family groups including The Children of John Taylor of Bifrons Park (c.1696) now owned by the National Portrait Gallery.

David Papillon was descended from a line of politicians and land-owning gentry. Like his father Philip Papillon and his grandfather Thomas, David later became an MP for the family borough of Dover. He was also made a Fellow of the Royal Society and with the recommendation of Lord Hardwicke, became a Commissioner of Excise. He married Mary Keyser in 1717 and had one son and four daughters.

Although history records what became of the artist''s young subject it is not known which branch of the family held this portrait in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During the twentieth century the work appears to have moved in and out of the family. In 1957 it was recorded as belonging to Mrs. A.H. Papillon and hanging in the family estate at Acrise Place in Kent. In 1950 Acrise Place, which had been sold by the Papillons in the nineteenth century was saved from disrepair and impending demolition by Mr. A.H. Papillon, a descendant of the estate''s original owner. It is possible that a collection of art and furniture, which may have included this picture, was reassembled at the time of Acrise Place's re-acquisition.
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