A 17th century English portrait of a lady by Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680), half-length in a painted feigned oval, wearing a green silk gown with chestnut coloured cloak over one shoulder, her fair hair curled in the fashionable ringlet style of the period. Oil on canvas in an English giltwood ‘Lely’ frame.
We are grateful to Diana Dethloff and Catharine MacLeod (who are currently working on a Lely catalogue raisonné) for their confirmation of Lely as the artist from photograph analysis of this previously unidentified early work.
The sitter is likely to have been from an upper class or aristocratic family in court circles, who were the main source of Lely`s patronage. The simple composition serves to highlight the beauty of the sitter through portraying her pale decolletage and complexion, set against the gentle gaze of her blue eyes, the soft blush of her cheeks and her full red lips.
Peter Lely (1618-1680) was originally of dutch origin and became Principle Painter to the King in 1661, following in the footsteps of Van Dyck who had died in 1641. He dominated the portrait painting scene in England for over 20 years, creating a distinctive ‘court look’ in his work which had a strong influence on many other artists. He had an extremely successful and popular portrait practice which meant that he soon had to develop production methods that could accommodate the high demand for portraits, and also for copies and versions of them which were given as gifts to family and courtiers. The use of studio assistants was a common practice for busy artists and as with Van Dyck, Lely is known to have used specialist assistants to execute particular parts of his paintings. Artists who worked in Lely`s studio included John Baptist Gaspars who specialised in drapery painting, William Wissing, John Greenhill, Thomas Hawker and Joseph Buckshorn.