Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of King Charles II (1630-1685) 1675c.

Studio of Sir Peter Lely (1618-80)

Portrait of King Charles II (1630-1685), Studio of Sir Peter Lely
Oil on canvas
17th Century
50 x 40 inches 127 x 101.2 cm
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This portrait of King Charles II in the robes of the Sovereign of the Order of the Garter is a superb statement of the monarch''s magnificence, of his shrewd and insightful character and of the virtuosity of Sir Peter Lely and his studio. After a long abeyance under the Republic the Order of the Garter was re-established by Charles II at his Restoration. The King and the Companions took considerable pleasure in the opulence of the Garter costume; their habit of wearing the robes not only for the Garter procession at Windsor and for the subsequent feast but for walking afterwards in Windsor Great Park provoked the criticism of Samuel Pepys. Portraits of the King in Garter robes exist not only by the hand of Lely but also by Wright and Riley. Lely produced a number of full-length portraits of Garter knights in the late 1660s and 1670s, as well as a series of drawings that depict all of the participants in the Garter Procession, which may have been intended for some grand but unexecuted decorative scheme.

The prime version of this composition shows the King seated at full-length and is in the collection of the Dukes of Grafton at Euston Hall, who acquired it either through the King''s gift to the Duchess of Cleveland, the first Duke''s mother, or -more probably- through inheritance from the Duchess of Grafton. The Duchess was the daughter of the Earl of Arlington, who had a portrait in his gallery at Arlington House which would seem to correspond to the Euston painting.
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