Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a Lady of the St. Quintin Family 

Circle of Sir Peter Lely (1618-80)

Portrait of a Lady of the St. Quintin Family, Circle of Sir Peter Lely
Oil on canvas
17th Century
16 5/8 x 13 in. (42.3 x 33 cm.)
Captain R. Edmond (according to a label on the reverse); Private collection, UK.
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The present work is an unusually high-quality reduced-scale period copy of a portrait by leading seventeenth-century court painter Sir Peter Lely depicting a lady of the St. Quintin family.

The full-scale portrait is arguably one of Lely’s most accomplished works from the early 1670s and as of 1951 was recorded at Scampston Hall, the historic family seat of the St. Quintin family. The Scampston Hall portrait has an incorrect inscription identifying the sitter as Mary Lacy who married Sir William St. Quintin in c.1605. This is obviously not the case and it is perhaps more likely that the subject is Elizabeth Strickland, daughter of Sir William Strickland, Knight of Boynton, who married William St. Quintin (1632-1695) in 1653 and whose son, also William (1662-1723), succeeded his grandfather in becoming 3rd Baronet St. Quintin in 1695.

Sir Peter Lely’s character and talent dominated the art world of 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 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. Almost all 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 influence and success of Van Dyck amongst the English patrons encouraged Lely to depart from his Dutch artistic roots, and he soon adopted a more Van Dyckian technique in response. This influence however was only really to flourish outwardly following the Restoration in 1660, when Lely’s sitters wished to be portrayed with all the flamboyance of their Caroline predecessors, and not the austere worthiness of the hated Cromwellian interregnum.

R.B. Beckett, Lely, (London, 1951), p.60, no.460.
J. Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies of England, Ireland and Scotland, (London, 1844), p.463; J. Burke, Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire, (London, 1839), p.999.
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