Blackpool school sells famous painting

Boy with cricket bat
Captain of the Eleven by Philip Hermogenes Calderon Photo: Bonhams

A primary school in Blackpool could earn up to £150,000 from the sale of a painting which has hung in its hall for the past 86 years.

Captain of the Eleven by Philip Hermogenes Calderon depicts a well-scrubbed Victorian boy preparing to defend his cricket wicket.

It became one of the most famous images of the late Victorian and Edwardian period after being used in a pioneering advertising campaign to promote Pears soap.

Tracey Harrison, headteacher of Thames Primary School in Blackpool, told The Times Educational Supplement: "It was later bought by a local councillor who presented it to the school which was in his ward in 1926.

"We have long known it is a valuable painting, but the priority is providing the best possible facilities. Ours is a 19th-century school with some classrooms in need of modernisation and if the painting reaches its estimate of £100,000 to £150,000, that's what the money will contribute to.

"The painting also needed restoration and as part of preparing it for sale, Bonhams (the auctioneer) have had it lightly cleaned and details such as a wall and colourful flower bed behind the boy have appeared."

The painting, completed in 1882, is already attracting plenty of interest, according to Bonhams' director of 19th-century paintings, Peter Rees, in part because of its important association with early advertising.

"It was bought by Pears' managing director Thomas Barratt, who was skilled at spotting works that might help in the marketing of their famous brand of clear soap," said Mr Rees.

"It was given away free as a print in the 1898 Pears Christmas annual and became one of the most reproduced images of the early 20th century, appearing, for example, on presentation cricket bats."

The painting will go to auction next month.