Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a Lady 1660s

Attributed to John Greenhill (1644-1676)

Portrait of a Lady, Attributed to John Greenhill
Black and red chalk on paper
17th Century
10 x 7 ½ inches, 25 x 19.5 cm.
The Esdaile Collection; Sir Bruce Ingram.
Montreal Museum of Art, ‘Five Centuries of Drawing’, 1953, no.224 (as By Sir Peter Lely)
Of all the artists to emerge from the studio of Sir Peter Lely – the dominant artist in England in the late seventeenth century – John Greenhill was, as George Vertue noted, “the most excellent.” He is known to have joined Lely’s studio by 1662, but seems to have left fairly soon afterwards to establish his own practice. Vertue claimed that Lely was jealous of his pupil’s ability. He was commissioned to paint a number of leading figures of the court, including Anne, Duchess of York, and even the King. However, his dissolute lifestyle led to the end of promising career – he died barely into his thirties, after falling into a gutter, drunk, in Long Acre.

Greenhill was at the centre of the artistic scene in London after the Restoration, and he painted most of the leading actors of his generation. He was a pioneer of coloured chalk portrait drawings in England at that time, and his depictions of actors such as Thomas Betterton and Henry Harris are considered to be amongst the most notable post-restoration portraits. This well-observed drawing has a characteristic directness that marks Greenhill’s portraiture from Lely’s. It also has considerable echoes of Van Dyck, whom Greenhill is known to have copied assiduously. The sitter’s uncompromising gaze suggests she was familiar with the artist, and may well have come from within his social and artistic circle.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.