Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of James Duke of Monmouth (1649 - 85) 1670c.

Studio of Sir Peter Lely (1618-80)

Portrait of James Duke of Monmouth (1649 - 85), Studio of Sir Peter Lely
Oil on canvas
17th Century
30 x 25 inches 76.2 x 63.5 cm
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Authentic contemporary portraits of the Duke of Monmouth are extremely rare and most of the surviving portraits of him still belong to the Buccleuch family. It is possible thai after his execution in 1685 some of the portraits of Monmouth were destroyed and of a British museums only the National Portrait Gallery in London has likenesses of him.

The earliest portrait is a miniature by Samuel Cooper, dating from around 1660 in the Collection at Windsor. Monmouth sat to the leading court portrait-painter Sir Peter Lely at some time between 1665-75. The head of this type appears in a number of portraits of different poses by the artist and his studio. Our painting is an example of one of these contemporary images produced from the lely head type by a member of the artists studio. A head and shoulders portrait with breastplate as well as a whole length in garter robes both in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch belong to this Lely group.

Our portrait conforms with contemporary descriptions of his personal beauty and grace which combined with his generosity and courage did much to enhance his popularity. Perhaps also we get a sense of his intellectual deficiencies, a weakness which John noted was.to lead to his reckless ambition and want of principle. Probably commissioned by a friend or follower it would have served to demonstrate support and allegiance for the Duke's cause.

Monmouth was also painted by Lely's eventual successor as court painter, Sir Godfrey Kneller in 1678 and the following year, both also belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch The National Portrait Gallery has two portraits of the sitter both relating to a painting William Wissing of which the original is thought to be at Palace House in Hampshire.

The sitter, born at Rotterdam on 9 April 1649 was the natural son of Charles II by Lu Walters. Charles seems to have met her at the Hague, while she was under the protec of Robert Sidney, son of the Earl of Leicester. John Evelyn, the diarist describes her browne, beautifull, bold, but insipid creature. The child was taken first to Paris an then in January 1656 to England by his mother, where she was given an annuity of a thousand livres.

On the death of his mother in Paris, the youth was entrusted to Lord Crofts and under whose name he was presented to the King at Hampton Court in July 1662 and given apartments at Whitehall.
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