soldportrait of nell gwyn c1675 studio of lely

SOLD...Portrait of Nell Gwyn c.1675; Studio of Lely


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Oil on canvas in fine carved and giltwood 'Lely' frame.
SIR PETER LELY (1618 - 1680) was the dominant Court and Society portraitist of the reign of Charles ll. He was made Principal Painter to the King in 1661, and knighted in 1680.
Many portraits of unknown Restoration ladies are said to be Nell Gwyn, on no grounds at all. It is rare for one to be unquestionably of the actress, as this one is. This studio work is identical to the prime version painted by Lely and formerly at Parham Park, Collection of the Hon. Clive Gibson, and sold at Sotheby's 15 June 2000 for £57,500.
Portraits of prominent subjects of their day, especially Royal and Court sitters, were in much demand after the Restoration. Lely’s many talented studio assistants, among them Greenhill and Lankrink, were regularly occupied in making highly accomplished copies under Lely's supervision.
Nell looks confidentally at the viewer, her decollatage very revealing, as was the custom for portraits of mistresses. To her right, in an urn, grows Spanish Jasmine which signifies sensuality, and was famous for its exotic heady perfume which is especially intoxicating at night....all very appropriate.
NELL GWYN (or Gwynn or Gwynne) was born Eleanor Gwyn (2 Feb. 1650 - 14 Nov. 1687). Charles II's famous mistress ('pretty witty Nell' in Pepys's words) began life as an orange seller in the Theatre Royal, where she was befriended by Charles Hart and John Lacy, the players. Hart assisted her theatrical training and in 1665 she appeared for the first time on the stage as Cydraria in Dryden's 'Indian Emperor'
Pepys greatly admired her, and she continued in numerous roles by Dryden and others until she quitted the stage in 1682. Dryden wrote parts especially for her, taking advantage in particular of her gift for delivering prologues and epilogues. After she had recited an epilogue in a hat 'of the circumference of a large coach-wheel', Charles II approached her and took her back in his coach to supper. Much of her popularity as the King's mistress lay in the unpopularity of the Catholic Duchess of Portsmouth, her main rival. It is said that when mobbed in Oxford by a crowd who mistook her for her rival, Nell leant out of her coach and said: 'Pray good people be civil; I am the Protestant whore'. Madame de Sevigne noted the rivalry and said of Nell Gwyn: 'She is young, indiscreet, confident, wild and of an agreeable humour: she sings, she dances, she acts her part with a good grace.' She had two sons by the King and the eldest, Charles, was created Duke of St Albans. The King assigned Burford House in Windsor to her.
She died aged 37 and is buried in the Church of St. Martin's in the Fields, at the corner of Trafalgar Square.
SIZE: 49.5 x 39.5 inches canvas size; 58 x 47.75 inches inc. frame.
CONDITION: very good; old relining; moderate craquleure; small areas of old retouching. The superb frame is a hand-made copy of a 'Lely' frame of the late 17th c., custom made, covered in 22 ct. gold leaf and then 'antiqued'. PROVENANCE: By descent in Ireland since at least c.1800 to the previous owner



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