An engraved portrait of celebrated Dutch dwarf Simon Paap, 1823
Simon Paap. The Celebrated Dutch Dwarf.
London, J. Robins & Co. Albion Press, 1 May 1823. Stipple-engraved portrait. 27,2 x 20,9 (plate size: ca. 21 x 14 cm). Evenly browned, some smudges and faint creases, the back with some biographical notes on Paap in pencil, otherwise in good condition.
A wonderful portrait of Simon Paap (1789-1828), a famed Dutch dwarf who visited England in 1815, 1816 and 1818.
The portrait shows Paap in full-length standing in a room with a pipe in his left hand, his tall hat in the other. It was published in Cooper's rare collection of extraordinary people, Fifty Wonderful Portraits (1824).
Paap was born in Zandvoort, a small town on the Dutch coast. After the age of four he ceased to grow, reaching a height of a mere 76 cm. According to contemporaries he was handsome and well-proportioned, although his head was rather large for his size.
He exhibited himself publicly at fairs in The Netherlands, to critical acclaim. In 1809 he was received by Louis Napoleon, King of Holland. and, after the defeat of the French in 1814, he performed for Wilhelmina of Prussia. This paved the way for international fame: the following year Paap crossed the English Channel, visiting Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden Theatre, and Nottingham. In 1815 he returned to London, and in 1818 he visited Oxford.
After his return his fame slowly declined, leading to his tragic death in 1828. At a fair in Dendermonde (Belgium) fairgoers tossed him into the air, but, being drunk, they failed to catch him, letting Paap smash to the ground. Mortally wounded, he died that same day; he was buried in the reformed church of Zandvoort.
Some years later, however, rumours spread about the disappearance of Paap's body. When his grave was opened the rumours proved true: his body had been replaced by that of a six-year old. And, as it later turned out, Paap's skeleton had ended up in a private collection of anatomical specimens. It was eventually sold at auction; the present whereabouts of Paap's remains are unknown.
Cf. Sliggers, De tentoongestelde mens, pp. 78-80; Wood, Giants and Dwarfs, pp. 380-383.