Soest, Westphalia, 14 September 1618–London, 30 November 1680
Dutch-British painter, draughtsman and collector
After the death of Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641), Peter Lely became the most successful portrait painter in England. His highly organized and prolific workshop established a mode of portraiture that was to dominate British painting until his death and after through the work of successors such as Godfrey Kneller (1646–1723).
Born Pieter van der Faes to Dutch parents in the German province of Westphalia, he is reputed to have adopted the nickname ‘Lely’ after a heraldic lily carved on the gable of his family’s house in The Hague. In the 1630s he trained in the workshop of the Haarlem painter Frans Pietersz. de Grebber (1573–1649), who also trained Judith Leyster (1609–60).
A signed and dated landscape drawing in the British Museum may depict an English setting and would suggest that Lely had settled in London by 1643.1 He was made a freeman of the Painter-Stainers’ Company in London on 26 October 1647 and by June 1650 he had settled in the Piazza in Covent Garden. Dulwich’s Nymphs by a Fountain (c. 1650)  exemplifies Lely’s early preoccupation with Arcadian subject matter and sensuous Venetian colouring.2 Without any serious rivals, Lely became the natural successor to Van Dyck and secured the support of some of his most important patrons, including the earls of Northumberland and Pembroke. He soon abandoned subject pictures in favour of portraiture and, although he never quite achieved the subtlety or refinement of Van Dyck, he built a hugely successful career modelled on the earlier artist’s effortless elegance, fluid brushwork and a repertoire of ‘carelessly romantic’ poses and drapery.
On the restoration of the monarchy in 1661 Charles II (1630–65) appointed him as Principal Painter, a position he held until his death. Lely was known for his high living and assembled one of the largest and most important art collections in 17th-century England, including Van Dyck’s Cupid and Psyche (1639–40; Royal Collection) , bought at the sale of Charles I (1600–1649), the ‘Lely Venus’, a Roman 2nd century AD crouching Venus (BM, London) , and some 10,000 prints and drawings. He was knighted in January 1680; he died at his easel less than a year later.
Graham 1695, pp. 343–4; Buckeridge 1706, pp. 444–7; Buckeridge 1754, pp. 402–4; Houbraken 1753, pp. 456–73; Baker 1912; Beckett 1951; Waterhouse 1953, pp. 62–7; Millar 1978; Talley 1981; MacLeod 2001; MacLeod & Alexander 2001; Curd 2010; Campbell 2012a; Joachimides 2015; Ecartico, no. 4546: http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/4546 (Sept. 1, 2020); RKDartists&, no. 49235: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/49235 (Sept. 1, 2020).
Self portrait of Peter Lely (1618-1680), c. 1650-1655
paper, black chalk, colored chalk, heightened in white 386 x 311 mm
lower right : PLely. fe. on H. [PL in monogram]
Sotheby's (London (England)) 2016-07-05 - 2016-07-06, nr. 216
Nymphs by a fountain, c. 1650-1655
canvas, oil paint 128,9 x 144,8 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG555
Anthony van Dyck
Cupid awakes Psyche from her deadly sleep, after 1635
canvas, oil paint 199,4 x 191,8 cm
Windsor (England), private collection Royal Collection - Windsor Castle
Anoniem Romeinse Rijk (hist.) 2de eeuw
Aphrodite or 'Crouching Venus', 2nd century
marble 125 x 53 x 65 cm
Great Britain, The Royal Collection, inv./cat.nr. RCIN 69746
DPG662 – Portrait of Bartholomew Beale (1656–1709)
c. 1670, oil on canvas, 91.5 × 76.2 cm
Signed in monogram lower left: PL
Probably painted for Mary (1633–99) and Charles Beale I (1631–1705); Edward Lovibond I (d. 1737); by descent to Edward Lovibond II (1724–75); Lovibond sale, Skinner, 27–28 May 1776;3 Charles Fairfax Murray (1849–1919); Charles Butler (1822–1910) acquired from Fairfax Murray, c. 1885; by descent to Charles H. A. Butler and his family; sold to Peter Nahum 2006; Lowell Libson Ltd; Sotheby’s, New York, 29 Jan. 2009, lot 62; bt Simon C. Dickinson Ltd; Purchased by Dulwich Picture Gallery, 2010.
Walsh & Jeffree 1975, pp. 32, 58; Campbell 2012a, p. 138 (fig. 59); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, pp. 128–9; RKD, no. 298458: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/298458 (Sept. 1, 2020).
London 1960–61, p. 57, no. 168 (as Portrait of a Young Man, ‘may be a member of the Beale family’).
The painting is in good condition. The lining is quite old but seems secure. Some subtlety in the paint surface may have been lost through wear and overcleaning in the past. The sky is worn and discoloured. The drapery appears flat with loss of definition in the shadows due to wear and restoration. There is some weave interference in the paint surface due to the lining process. The varnish has discoloured to some extent but is visually acceptable. Previous recorded treatment: 2010, S. Plender and N. Ryder.
1) Peter Lely, A Boy as a Shepherd, c. 1658–60, canvas, 91.4 x 75.6 cm. DPG, London, DPG563 .4
2) Mary Beale, Portrait of a Youth, canvas, 76.5 x 63.8 cm. DPG, London, DPG574 .5
3a) Charles Beale II after Peter Lely (after DPG662), Portrait of Bartholomew Beale, red chalk, strengthened with graphite and black chalk, 191 x 164 mm. BM, London, Gg,5.72.6
3b) Charles Beale II after Peter Lely (after 1; DPG563), Portrait of a Youth as a Shepherd, red chalk, strengthened with graphite and black chalk, 207 x 181 mm. BM, London, Gg,5.65.7
4) Peter Lely, Portrait of a Lady, c. 1663, canvas, 91.4 x 76.2 cm. Private collection.8
5) Hellenistic, the Arundel Head, second century BC, bronze, h. 29.21 cm. BM, London, 1760,0919.1.9
This picture was purchased in 2010 as a pair to A Boy as a Shepherd (Related works, no. 1) ; they have very similar spectacular frames, but whether they were intended as a pair by the artist is a matter of debate (see below). The painting is likely to depict Bartholomew Beale (1656–1709), the elder son of Mary Beale (1633–99), one of the first professional women artists in England and a friend of Lely. As a child Bartholomew assisted his mother in her studio, but in the 1680s he studied medicine in Cambridge and settled in Coventry to practice as a physician. He would have been about fourteen when he sat for this painting, and the full lips and impressive head of curls compare well with portraits of him by his mother at the Geffrye Museum (c. 1660) and the one at Dulwich (c. 1680–85, Related works, no. 2)  which is thought to depict him as a young man. The bust on which Bartholomew rests his right hand has been identified by Nicholas Penny as based on the Arundel Head (2nd century BC; Related works, no. 5), then thought to depict the poet Homer.10
The Beale identification is strengthened further by two chalk drawings (Related works, nos 3a, 3b) by Bartholomew’s younger brother Charles Beale II (1660–1714) after this portrait and Dulwich’s Boy as a Shepherd (c. 1658–60). The diary of Charles Beale senior indicates that both boys had access to Lely’s studio, where Charles junior may have seen these paintings, or indeed they could have been hanging in the Beale home, as the parents were known to have commissioned work from Lely in order to observe his technique. It is unlikely, however, that the two pictures form pendants: the more cursory Bartholomew picture lacks the subtle delicacy of the Shepherd Boy, pointing towards a later date in Lely’s career.
In his ‘Visits to Country Seats’ Horace Walpole recorded Boy as a Shepherd in the collection of Edward Lovibond (1723–75) at Hampton c. 1770, as well as ‘several [other] pictures that were Mrs Beale’s’.11 It was presumably while in the Lovibond collection that Boy as a Shepherd was placed in a magnificent English Rococo frame of c. 1745. The portrait of Bartholomew Beale and one of an unidentified female sitter (c. 1663; Related works, no. 4)12 have very similar frames ,13 which would suggest that all three paintings were together in the Lovibond collection, where they received comparable frames. There is no evidence that they were united before the Lovibond collection, or whether they were identified as portraits of Beale family members.
The three paintings were separated in Lovibond’s posthumous sale in May 1776; Boy as a Shepherd travelled to Strawberry Hill with Walpole, and the two other portraits passed on to unknown location(s). The next known owner of what is now DPG662 is the pre-Raphaelite painter and collector Charles Fairfax Murray (1849–1919), who sold it, and presumably the portrait of the female sitter, to Charles Butler (1822–1910) by 1885. Fairfax did later own Boy as a Shepherd before bequeathing it to Dulwich Picture Gallery, but that was not until c. 1908, more than twenty years after he had sold the other portrait to Butler.
Portrait of Bartholomew Beale (1656-1709), with the bust of Homer, c. 1670
canvas, oil paint 91,5 x 76,2 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG662
Boy as a Shepherd, c. 1658-1665
canvas, oil paint 91,4 x 75,6 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG563
Portrait of a Youth, c. 1685
canvas, oil paint 76,5 x 63,8 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG574
DPG662 in it's Rococo frame
1 See https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1992-0516-13 (Aug. 31, 2020). There is some discussion whether this drawing was made in the Netherlands or in England.
2 This picture was discussed in the British catalogue of the Dulwich pictures, Ingamells 2008, pp. 172–3. DPG662 is included here as it was acquired after Ingamells’ publication.
3 As announced in the Daily Advertiser, 10–28 May 1776.
4 RKD, no. 298461: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/298461 (Sept. 2, 2020). A date of c. 1665 has also been suggested: see Ingamells 2008, pp. 176–7. See also Campbell 2012a, pp. 136–9, no. 12, and Millar 1978, pp. 16 (pl. III), 51–2, no. 28.
6 See https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_Gg-5-72 (Sept. 1, 2020); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 129, fig. 1, under DPG662 (Peter Lely; RKD, no. 298458).
7 See https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_Gg-5-65 (Sept. 1, 2020); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 129, fig. 3, under DPG662 (Peter Lely; RKD, no. 298458).
8 Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 129, fig. 4, under DPG662 (RKD, no. 298458).
9 https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1760-0919-1 (Sept. 2, 2020).
10 Email correspondence Nicholas Penny to Xavier Salomon, 14 Sept. 2010 (DPG662 file). This seems to be an incorrect identification, as there are several differences: the Arundel Head is of bronze, while the bust depicted here is made of marble or plaster, moreover it has shoulders; and its hair and beard are completely different.
11 Quoted in Toynbee 1927–8, p. 69.
12 This painting was catalogued as depicting Alice Woodforde née Beale, cousin-in-law to Mary Beale; Sotheby’s, New York, 29 Jan. 2009, lot 61. It was not, as far as we know, copied by Charles Beale.
13 The Beale frame is almost identical to that of Boy as a Shepherd, but the handling of the carving is quite different. They are very likely to have been made in the same workshop but probably by a different carver. This could, however, be a result of the gilder not re-cutting the gesso with the same attention to detail as for the Shepherd Boy frame. Frame condition report, Thomas Proctor, 23 May 2010.