Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Frances Teresa Stuart, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox, 'la Belle Stuart' (1647-1702) 

Studio of Sir Peter Lely (1618-80)

Portrait of Frances Teresa Stuart, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox, 'la Belle Stuart' (1647-1702), Studio of Sir Peter Lely
Oil and Canvas
17th Century
184 x 51 ¼ ins., (213.5cm X 130cm
Anthony Grey, 11th Earl of Kent (1645-1702); His wife, Mary, Baroness Lucas of Crudwell who died in 1702; By descent to Anne Baroness Lucas of Crudwell who married George, 6th Earl Cowper of Panshanger (1806-80); Thence by descent to his granddaughter Ethel, Baroness Desborough, by whose trustees sold Christie’s, (as part of the Cowper Collection, Panshanger), 16th October 1953, lot 84; Private Collection of Philip Mould 1995- present.
Miss Boyle, Portraits at Panshanger, 1885, p. 404.
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Frances Teresa Stuart, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (1647-1702), was once described by Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), the eminent diarist and loquacious commentator on women, as ‘the greatest beauty I ever saw, I think, in my life’. Indeed, she was referred to as ‘La Belle Stuart’ by members of the royal court of King Charles II of England. Her charm and affability propelled her into the role of lady-in-waiting to the queen, Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705). Frances developed a close friendship with the King, whose favouritism for her was largely founded upon her good looks. In spite of his dogged pursuit of her affection, she resisted his lascivious endeavours, maintained an influential role in court proceedings, and eventually married Charles Stuart, 6th Duke of Lennox and 3rd Duke of Richmond (1639-72) in 1667.

Sir Peter Lely’s character and talent dominated the art world in the second half of the seventeenth century in England. Though Pepys famously described him as ‘a mighty proud man and full of state’, Lely’s skill for portraiture meant he assumed the mantle of Sir Anthony Van Dyck (whom he admired to such an extent that he owned Van Dyck’s last Self-Portrait) with ease. Despite sharing the stage with many accomplished painters, the particular brio of his technique and his considerable personal charm guaranteed him the most prestigious patronage – and for nearly twenty years royal patronage from his position as Principle Painter to King Charles II. Everyone of consequence in his age sat to him, and it is in his portraits that we form our conception of the cautious solemnity of the 1650s and the scandalous excesses of the years following the Restoration.

The present work is a fine studio version of a now lost original, and the dynamic composition, with the inclusion of an antique sculpture, classical urn and fluted Corinthian columns (the highest order of ancient architecture), reflects her position in the uppermost echelons of society.
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