An Imaginary Gallery of English Painting.
If one were to imagine English painting as a building, the main rooms would be occupied by portraits, fittingly, as in an English stately home. Such a set of rooms would lead off each other en enfilade: as one passed through eras of English portraits, one would enter a different room. Within such an imaginary gallery, the first room would be hung with the works of Sir Peter Lely, chief painter to the court of Charles II and the restoration art world. The next main room would be full of paintings by Sir Godfrey Kneller and his satellites. Eventually, our journey would culminate in rooms full of dignitaries painted by Reynolds, Romney, and Lawrence, but on this course we will halt at Reynolds. As we inspected the pictures in the “Lely gallery” we would notice the inclusion of Dutch painters such as Adriaen Hanneman, the Hague artist we met last week as well as a variety of Dutch painters working in close collaboration with Lely. Within such a building we would undoubtedly have other rooms allocated to different genres such as subject pictures, mythologies, biblical stories, and marine painting which would feature works by both English and Dutch painters such as Lely himself as well as a cohort of Dutch artists working for Charles II’s chief painter.
|Sir Peter Lely, Self-Portrait, 1660, oil on canvas, 108 87.6 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London.|
|Anthony van Dyck, Self-Portrait, c. 1640, oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery, London.|
|William Dobson, Richard Neville, c. 1643, oil on canvas, 44 7/8 x 36 inches, National Portrait Gallery, London.|
|Sir Godfrey Kneller, Self-Portrait, 1690, oil on canvas, 53.6 x 44.5 cm, V & A, London.|
Peter Lely was born as Pieter van der Faes to Dutch parents in Westphalia in 1618; his father was an infantry captain stationed in the garrison town of Soest. His mother hailed from Utrecht; his father’s family came from The Hague; and the Lely or lily refers to such a flower carved into a gable in his father’s house. Just as Van Dyck is associated with the reign of Charles I, so Lely is strongly connected with the era of the restoration in 1660. With the ascension of Charles II, Lely never looked back: he became Principal Painter to the King and left us a view of the restored Stuart court through his painting. Most famously, Lely painted the King’s mistress, Nell Gwyn, both clothed and possibly as a nude Venus with cupid. In addition to depicting a variety of aristocratic beauties and noble earls, early in his career Lely executed subject paintings such as Arcadian mythologies and religious art. A number of exhibitions and publications attest to Lely’s importance to English painting, but it is a qualified success. Lely’s art lacks the depth and personality of Van Dyck, and maybe even Dobson’s qualities, perhaps because Lely produced too much work much of which is mediocre. Ellis Waterhouse seems to near the mark when he astutely notes that “Lely’s style is matter for the historian rather than for the student of the genius of the creative arts.” Lely is a highly competent portrait painter, but he is no genius; he inaugurated a stolid, unimaginative school of English portrait painting that served the school well for several centuries. As for his subject pictures: these can be delectable, but when set next to the immortals like Titian and Veronese, their shortcomings leap to the eye.
Sir Peter Lely, Nell Gwyn, 1668-80, oil on canvas, 126.4 x 102.9 cm, Private Collection.
|Sir Peter Lely, Portrait of a Lady and Child as Venus and Cupid, oil on canvas, 123.2 x 157.5 cm.|
|Sir Peter Lely, The Rape of Europa, early 1650s, oil on canvas, 123.3 x 135 cm, Chatsworth House.|
|Sir Peter Lely, The Concert, c. 1650, oil on canvas, 122.9 x 234.5 cm, Courtauld Institute, London.|
Lely trained with Frans Pietersz. de Grebbe in Haarlem in the 1630s. De Grebbe (1573- 1649) was a son of another artist and both were members of a company of Catholic artists. De Grebbe seems to have been active on the international art scene sine in 1616 he visited Rubens in the role of art intermediary for the Flemish painter, and he acted for the English Ambassador to The Hague, Sir Dudley Carleton. Very few of De Grebbe’s works have survived which might be explained by his main function as a teacher of painters as well as producing portraits, and narrative pictures like the Finding of Moses, a subject which Lely painted himself. Intriguingly, a second version of Lely’s Finding of Moses turned up as a picture in two of Vermeer’s works, as a large picture in the Lady with a Maid (Dublin) and in reduced form in the Astronomer (Louvre). The presence of Lely in Vermeer suggests that De Grebbe, or even Lely himself, was using sources outside Haarlem to market the work of his pupil in line with his dealer ambitions. As Vermeer also was an art dealer, it could also indicate that the Delft artist was marketing Lely’s work through his own creations, or at the risk of sounding simplistic, maybe Vermeer just admired Lely’s work. A prodigy, Lely progressed quickly under De Grebbe learning to paint history subjects, some quite obscure and rare like the Infancy of Bacchus, though his fame would primarily rest on his ability to paint portraits of the aristocracy which made him famous and prosperous in restoration London.  A good example of Lely’s earlier work is the pastoral of two lovers, with the shepherd having the artist’s own features. Though this work might suggest the influence of such paintings as Titian’s Three Ages of Man, it pre-dates Lely’s exposure to paintings attributed to Titian and Giorgione in the 1640s in London. But later Lely would own a similar subject by the Venetian artist Bonifazio di Pitati whose whereabouts are unknown. Lely was also influenced by Dutch Arcadian painters like the Amsterdam artist Jacob van Loo (1614-1670) whose nymphs in sylvan glades are quoted by Lely in his own lyrical evocation of Arcadia. Nobody knows the precise reason why Lely decided to make the journey to London in 1641, strikingly the year that one of his greatest models, Van Dyck, died. By the time he arrived in London, Lely was in his early twenties, and perhaps the relocation is not surprising since he was continuing the tradition of artists from the United Provinces and the Low Countries coming to work in England. According to a number of sources Lely was initially a “landskip,” artist but “face painting” was more in demand, so he switched to that more lucrative genre with phenomenally successful results. It seems that the spectacular success of Lely in England owed much to this “pragmatic compromise (Hunter).
|Pieter de Grebbe, Finding of Moses, 1634, Oil on canvas, 170 x 229 cm, Gemäldegalerie, Dresden.|
|Johannes Vermeer, Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid, c. 1670, oil on canvas, 70.1 x 60.5 cm, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.|
|Sir Peter Lely, Amorous Couple in a Landscape, c. 1640, Oil on canvas, 88 x 96 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Valenciennes.|
|Titian, The Three Ages of Man, c. 1512, Oil on canvas, 90 x 152 cm, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.|
Lely, Geldorp and the Dutch Community in England.
On arrival in London Lely worked for George Geldorp, the son of Gortsius Geldorp. A member of the Antwerp Guild, Geldorp Jr. built his career between 1623-6 in England by working for the second Earl of Salisbury and his wife. Something of a dubious dealer, Geldorp sold a “head of Nero” to Charles Prince of Wales which was probably some cast-off from somebody’s sculpture gallery. Geldorp threw open his doors to other visiting artists including Van Dyck who stayed with him in 1620. Between 1637 and 1638, Geldorp worked as an agent for the banker Jabach following in the footsteps of Jan Lievens in 1632. Geldorp also supplied frames to the English aristocracy, but his career was really launched with the dispersal of Charles I’s collection. Both Lely and Geldorp made purchases of their own, but with the restoration of the monarchy the King’s pictures had to be returned which put Geldorp in a difficult position as he had sold off items. From 1642 Geldorp lived in New Chapel near Tothill fields, the previous residence of Dutch painters like Cornelis van Poelenburgh who lived in London between 1637 and 1641. It is possible that these were Lely’s lodgings when he first arrived in England in 1641 where he may have copied pictures from Geldorp’s stock. These Dutch and Flemish painters would have been regarded as an alien community; they would have been classed as “foreigners” who could not speak the “mother tongue.”
|Alexander Bannerman, Jan van Belcamp and George Geldorp, line engraving, mid-18th century.|
|Jacob van Loo, Diana and Her Nymphs, 1654, Oil on canvas, 100 x 136 cm, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen.|
|Sir Peter Lely, Nymphs by a Fountain, c. 1654, oil on canvas, 128.9 x 144.8 cm, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London.|
Sir Peter Lely, Cimon and Iphigenia, 1640-45, oil on canvas, 103 x 164.5 cm, Knowle House, Kent.
The Organisation of Lely’s Studio.
In his discussion of art and scientific innovation in restoration London, Matthew C, Hunter suggests that the model for the network of friends and colleagues of the philosopher Robert Hooke (Lely’s previous apprentice) might be compared to Lely’s workshop associations. In the same way that Hooke “maintained a paternal attitude to his understudies,” Lely may have treated his workshop in the same way. The key idea for understanding the operations of Lely’s studio is to see it as a “model of artistic organisation” based on continental traditions unknown to England, but imported in order to cope with the growing demand for commissions and projects, especially portraits. Such a practice would consist of a trusted and talented group of Netherlandish painters to whom tasks were farmed out: thus Lely would paint the sitter’s face, and then he would allocate the responsibility of painting drapery, flowers, landscape and other pictorial embellishments. This team of specialists, many of whom had established reputations in the Netherlands, would number nine including Geldorp, Jan van Belcamp and others. And we must not discount the influence of aesthetic and scientific ideas, secreted in poems by Richard Lovelace and present in the microscopic representations of nature by Hooke both of which may have inspired Lely in his creation of the “sleepy-eyed” look in the sultry portraits of his famous Windsor beauties.
|Sir Peter Lely Young Man as a Shepherd, c. 1658-65, oil on canvas, 91. 4 x 75. 6 cm (36 x 29 ¼ inches), Dulwich Picture Gallery, London.|
|Sir Peter Lely, Susannah and the Elders, 1650-55, oil on canvas, 127 x 149. 2 cm, Tate Britain, London.|
|Sir Peter Lely, Anne Hyde, Duchess of York (1637-71), c. 1662, oil on canvas, 125.7 x 103.1 cm, Royal Collection.|
|Sir Peter Lely, Eleanor Needham, Lady Byron (1627-64), 1664?, oil on canvas, 159.4 x 127.9 cm, Royal Collection.|
Sir Peter Lely, Frances Stuart, Duchess of Richmond (1648-1702), 1662, oil on canvas, 125.8 x 102.7 cm, Royal Collection.
1) Sir Peter Lely, Self-Portrait, 1660, oil on canvas, 108 87.6 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London.
2) John Michael Wright, King Charles II (1617-1694), 1661-2, oil on canvas, Royal Collection.
3) Sir Peter Lely, Charles I and James, Duke of York, oil on canvas, c. 1647, Syon House, Middlesex.
4) Anthony van Dyck, Self-Portrait, c. 1640, oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery, London.
5) William Dobson, Richard Neville, c. 1643, oil on canvas, 44 7/8 x 36 inches, National Portrait Gallery, London.
6) Sir Peter Lely, Nell Gwyn, 1668-80, oil on canvas, 126.4 x 102.9 cm, Private Collection.
7) Sir Peter Lely, Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, oil on canvas, 182.2 x 143.8 cm (71 ¾ x 56 5/8 ), Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.
8) Pieter de Grebbe, Finding of Moses, 1634, Oil on canvas, 170 x 229 cm, Gemäldegalerie, Dresden.
9) Sir Peter Lely, The Finding of Moses, c. 1641, oil on canvas, 54 x 63 cm, Museé des Beaux- Arts, Rennes.
10) Johannes Vermeer, Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid, c. 1670, oil on canvas, 70.1 x 60.5 cm, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.
12) Johannes Vermeer, The Astronomer, c. 1668, Oil on canvas, 50 x 45 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris.
13) Sir Peter Lely, Amorous Couple in a Landscape, c. 1640, Oil on canvas, 88 x 96 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Valenciennes.
14) Titian, The Three Ages of Man, c. 1512, Oil on canvas, 90 x 152 cm, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.
15) Sir Peter Lely, The Infant Bacchus, after 1643, oil on canvas, 62.2 x 77.5 cm, Private Collection.
16) Nicolas Poussin, The Nurture of Bacchus, oil on canvas, 80.9 x 97.7 cm, National Gallery, London.
17) Sir Peter Lely, Landscape with small figures: rocky banks with trees on left, buildings in middle ground to right with hills in the distance, 1643, brush and grey wash, with faint areas of brown wash (?), 15.5 x 21 cm, British Museum, London. 
18) Sir Peter Lely, The Concert, c. 1650, oil on canvas, 122.9 x 234.5 cm, Courtauld Institute, London.
19) Sir Peter Lely, Nymphs by a Fountain, c. 1654, oil on canvas, 128.9 x 144.8 cm, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London.
20) Jacob van Loo, Diana and Her Nymphs, 1654, Oil on canvas, 100 x 136 cm, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen.
21) Jacob van Loo, Portrait of Lucretia Boudaen, Oil on panel, 122 x 90 cm, Private collection.
22) Dirck van der Lisse, Sleeping Nymph, Sleeping Nymph, 1640s, Oil on panel, 44 x 52 cm, Mauritshuis, The Hague.
23) Sir Peter Lely, Susannah and the Elders, 1650-55, oil on canvas, 127 x 149. 2 cm, Tate Britain, London.
24) Tintoretto, Susannah and the Elders, c. 1555, Oil on canvas, 147 x 194 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
27) Sir Peter Lely, The Rape of Europa, early 1650s, oil on canvas, 123.3 x 135 cm, Chatsworth House.
28) Sir Peter Lely, The Penitent Mary Magdalene, c. 1650, oil on canvas, 105.5 x 91.2 cm, Barber Institute, Birmingham University.
29) Sir Peter Lely Young Man as a Shepherd, c. 1658-65, oil on canvas, 91. 4 x 75. 6 cm (36 x 29 ¼ inches), Dulwich Picture Gallery, London.
30) Alexander Bannerman, Jan van Belcamp and George Geldorp, line engraving, mid-18th century.
31) Alexander Bannerman, after Adriaen Hanneman, Adriaen Hanneman, line engraving, mid 18th century, National Portrait Gallery, London.
32) William Dobson, Richard Lovelace, Oil on canvas, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London.
33) Sir Peter Lely, Cimon and Iphigenia, 1640-45, oil on canvas, 103 x 164.5 cm, Knowle House, Kent.
34) Cimon and Iphigenia in situ.
35) Sir Peter Lely, Portrait of a Lady and Child as Venus and Cupid, oil on canvas, 123.2 x 157.5 cm. 
36) Sir Peter Lely, Anne Hyde, Duchess of York (1637-71), c. 1662, oil on canvas, 125.7 x 103.1 cm, Royal Collection.
37) Sir Peter Lely, Eleanor Needham, Lady Byron (1627-64), 1664?, oil on canvas, 159.4 x 127.9 cm, Royal Collection.
38) Sir Peter Lely, Frances Stuart, Duchess of Richmond (1648-1702), 1662, oil on canvas, 125.8 x 102.7 cm, Royal Collection.
 This idea is borrowed from George Eliot’s novel Daniel Deronda. In describing the portraits of Deronda’s ancestors, Eliot presents a history of English portraiture and its styles ranging from Lely to Lawrence. Daniel Deronda, (Oxford World’s Classics), 140-1.
 In embarking on such an imaginary journey, one could do worse than taking a book from the real world as a guide, namely Elis Waterhouse’s Painting in Britain 1530-1790, (Pelican History of Art, 1953, rep. 1994).
 For a biographical sketch, see Caroline Campbell’s essay “Becoming Peter Lely” in the exhibition catalogue Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision, (Courtauld Institute, 2012), 12-26.
 Oliver Millar, Sir Peter Lely 1618-80, (National Portrait Gallery, 1978-9); and more recently, Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision, (Courtauld Institute, 20120, Caroline Campbell (ed), Diana Dethloff, Karen Hearn, David A. H. B. Taylor. Millar’s catalogue concentrates on portraiture, but the Courtauld exhibition chose to focus on the subject pictures. Perhaps the most intellectually rewarding is Matthew C. Hunter’s, Wicked Intelligence: Visual Art and the Science of Experiment in Restoration London, (University of Chicago Press, 2013) which broadens the terms of the debate considerably by placing Lely in the network of art production and scientific culture in restoration London.
 On Van Dyck, Dobson, and Lely, Waterhouse, Painting in Britain, 71-134.
 Waterhouse, Painting in Britain, 92.
 See Karen Hearn’s essay, “Lely and Holland” in Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision, 27-39.
 Stephen Conrad has sent me an interesting quotation on artists dealing amongst themselves: "…in Olanda, di salutare all’Aia da mia parte il sig. Moisè Van Wtenbrouck, pittore eccellente, e portar qua de’ suoi quadri di piccoli paesi. Porti ancora de’ quadri del sig. Cornelio, che ne troverà facilmente a Londra e a Utrech. In quest’ultima città saluterà a mio nome il sig. Gherardo Honthorst; e in Amsterdammo mi saluti anche il sig. Rembrant: e porti seco qualcosa del suo. Gli dica pure che io feci ieri la stima del suo quadro del profeta Balam, che comprò da lui il sig. Lopez, il qual quadro si venderà fra quelli sopraddetti."
"…in Holland you will not neglect to greet the excellent painter Moses van Wtenbrouck in The Hague on my behalf, and to bring back with you some of his small landscapes. Collect more pictures by Mr Cornelius [Poelenberg], that will be easy to sell in London or Utrecht. Give my regards to Gerard Honthorst in Utrecht and also to Mr Rembrandt in Amsterdam, and bring back some of his work as well. Tell him, too, that I appraised yesterday his picture of the prophet Balaam which Mr Lopez purchased from him."
Claude Vignon 1593-1670: Letter to Francois Langlois (called ‘il Ciartes’), in G. Bottari Raccolta di Lettere IV (1822) p. 446
 As a Poussin scholar I am struck by the similarity of some of Lely’s subjects and Poussin’s. Though I am not for one moment suggesting a direct influence of the French master on the English painter, both the Saving of Moses and the Infancy of Bacchus are painted by the artists. The Moses is a well-known subject, but pictures of infancy of Bacchus are very rare and were probably introduced into art by Poussin, about twenty years before Lely. What Lely also has in common with Poussin is his habit of painting several versions of the same theme. Interestingly, a group of Claude and Poussin landscapes are noted in his death sale, as well as prints possibly after the two French masters. See Diana Dethloff, “The executor’s account book and the dispersal of Sir Peter Lely’s collection,” Journal of the History of Collections, vol. 8, 1996, 15-51, 22.
 On Lely and the “Et in Arcadia Ego” theme, see David A.H. Taylor “Lely in Arcadia: Religious, pastoral, musical and mythological themes in Peter Lely’s subject pictures” in Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision, 63-88. Lely’s poet friend Richard Lovelace the painter found in England an “un-understanding land” where rich patrons were only interested in adoring their own “dull counterfeits.” See Diana Dethloff, “Reception and Rejection: Lely’s subject pictures in an “un-understanding land” in the same catalogue, 41-61.
 On Geldorp, see Diana Dethloff, “Reception and Rejection: Lely’s subject pictures in an ‘un-understanding land’, Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision, 45-46.
 Matthew C. Hunter, Wicked Intelligence, 121.
 Hunter, Wicked Intelligence, 121.
 Hunter, Wicked Intelligence, 117-118. For a textual portrait of each woman, see Lewis Melville, The Windsor Beauties: Ladies of the Court of Charles II, Loving Healing Press. Google Books Link. George Eliot is less complimentary with her “..ladies of the prize-animal kind, with rosebud mouths and full eyelids, according to Lely,” Daniel Deronda, Chap XVI, 140.
 Millar, Sir Peter Lely, no. 29.
 The letter that Charles holds may be from his wife Henrietta Maria (in exile) urging him to make a secret deal with Scotland, though some see the image as a “Cavalier” one containing cryptic messages that Lely and Lovelace would not have understood. See Frances Harris, “An Ambivalent Image: Lely’s double-portrait of Charles I and the Duke of York,” Burlington Magazine, Vol. 149, No. 1248, (March 2007), 180-2.
 Purchased in 2014 as a result of a fund-raising campaign.
 Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision, no. 1.
 Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision, no. 2.
 Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision, no. 3. Seen by George Vertue at a sale of a Mr Collivoe’s pictures in 1727, before it entered the Tollemache collection. The curators state that “Narrative representations of Bacchus’s early childhood are not common in seventeenth-century, yet those that survive, such as Nicolas Poussin’s Infancy of Bacchus in the Museé Condé, Chantilly, of around 1627, make light entertainment out of Ovid’s story as Lely does.”
 As Taylor states, it was Richard Graham’s 1695 account that stated that “ Peter Lely was a painter of ‘Landtschapes with small figures, and Historical Compositions’ when he arrived in London in the early 1640s, but “finding the practice of Painting after the Life generally more encourag’d, he apply’d himselft to Portraits.’” According to Taylor, in his 1951 monograph on the painter, R.B. Beckett believed that portrait painting had been forced on Lely, Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision, 64.
 Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision, no. 7
 Rembrandt to Gainsborough: Masterpieces from Dulwich Picture Gallery (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky, 2000), no. 79 where Desmond Shaw Taylor compares Lely’s frustrated Arcadian ambitions with Poussin’s resounding success in this genre, such as Dulwich’s Nurture of Jupiter, no. 27; Peter Lely: A lyrical Vision, no. 9. However, DST sees Lely’s nymphs as part of an alternative tradition of the nude more in line with Velasquez’s Rokeby Venus, and later Manet’s Olympia where the nude is treated in a deliberately realistic way.
 Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision, no. 10.
 Millar, Sir Peter Lely, no. 28; Rembrandt to Gainsborough, no. 80; Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision, no. 12.
 Millar, Sir Peter Lely, no. 44.
 From RC web site: “Three-quarter-length portrait of Anne Hyde, Duchess of York (1637-71) seated, turned half to the left, head turned to the viewer. She is wearing a copper-coloured dress with ropes of pearls and jewels at breast; her left hand lies in her lap while her right hand plays with long locks of hair. This is one of three very similar portraits of Anne Hyde in the Royal Collection (the others are RCIN 405508 and RCIN 403268) but the current picture is of the finest autograph quality and appears to be the earliest.” Link
 From RC web site: “In this portrait Eleanor Needham, Lady Byron is depicted as Saint Catherine of Alexandria in a guise probably intended to flatter Charles II's Queen, Catherine of Braganza. Accordingly she carries the martyr's palm branch and leans upon a wheel. The sitter looks to two putti in the upper left, one of whom holds a wreath of bay leaves above her head. She is wearing a copper-red dress with a richly decorated blue mantle about her arms.” Link