Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Eleanor ''Nell'' Gwynn (1650-1687) c.1670

Studio of Sir Peter Lely (1618-80)

Portrait of Eleanor ''Nell'' Gwynn (1650-1687), Studio of Sir Peter Lely
Oil on canvas
17th Century
50 x 40 inches 124 x 99.5 cm
To view portraits by Peter Lely for sale, please go to www.philipmould.com.

The identity of the sitter is confirmed by a contemporary mezzotint engraving

Nell Gwynn was painted less frequently than the Duchess of Cleveland, but in addition to this example, a studio repetition of a Lely composition of c.1667 she was the subject of the memorable nude portrait as Venus with Cupid in which she is attended by her young son, the Earl of Burford, as the god of love. Like other portraits of royal mistresses produced by Sir Peter Lely and his studio in the 1660s and 1670s, this present painting helps to define our image of the lazy hedonism of the court of Charles II. It is clear that the inspiration for these images is the Arcadian portraiture of Van Dyck some thirty years previously, and the lamb alludes to this fashion, and to the contemporary gusto for women to be depicted as Saint Agnes. This is a secular icon, however, alive to the voluptuous possibilities of flesh, and the exposed nipple, never to be found in more respectable subjects, marks this painting as a portrait of a courtesan.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.