Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a Lady 1675c.

Sir Peter Lely (1618-80)

Portrait of a Lady, Sir Peter Lely
Oil on canvas
17th Century
50 x 40 inches, 127 x 101 cm;
Scottish Private Collection
To view portraits by Peter Lely for sale, please go to www.philipmould.com.

This portrait is a superb example of Lely’s technique when he was at the apogee of his success. During the later 1660s and1670s Lely was the portraitist of choice for a society ready to embrace again the florid grandeur of the Caroline court. In this example, Lely has combined the complete mastery of Rembrandt-esque tone (learnt during his early education in Holland) with a clear admiration for Van Dyck, whose elegant style became the starting point for all Lely’s later work. Despite the sitter’s formal pose, she is portrayed with a sense of drama and allure thanks to the suggestive uncovering of a blue drape to reveal her inviting pose. The presence of ripe, colourful flowers meticulously painted to her left, and frolicking putti in the background further adds to the procreative emphasis, while at the same time introducing movement and action into the composition. This, therefore, is a portrait that revolves around femininity and fertility, and as such is an exquisite symbol of Restoration Britain.

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. 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.

This portrait is offered in its fine original seventeenth century hand-carved and gilded frame.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.