portrait of barbara villiers duchess of cleveland c1665 studio or circle of lely

Portrait of Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland c.1665; Studio or Circle of Lely.



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Oil on canvas in a modern reproduction frame.
As the most notorious and most frequently painted of King Charles II's mistresses, Barbara Villiers Duchess of Cleveland remains one of the most enduring symbols of the indulgences and excesses of the Restoration Court. This portrait derives from a work by Sir Peter Lely painted c.1662.
A portrait, identical to this one, apart from being painted within a feigned cartouche, sold at Bonhams in December 2003 for £10,157 including buyer's premium.
At the Restoration Villiers was established as the king's favourite mistress and despite his marriage to Catherine of Braganza and the jealousy of other courtiers, she maintained a powerful influence at Court. At least three of her children were acknowledged as his by the king and by 1665 she was termed the 'maitresse en titre'. Among her various liaisons was one in 1668 with the actor Charles Hart in retaliation for the king's growing attraction for actresses such as Moll Davis and Nell Gwyn.
In 1670 she was created Baroness Nonsuch, Countess of Southampton and Duchess of Cleveland. This was a reward for her services but also a compensation for retirement. By the early 1670s her influence had been entirely supplanted by Louise de Kéroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth. After this she spent some time in Paris before returning to England a few months before Charles II's death in 1685. On the death of her husband Roger, Earl of Castlemaine in 1705 she married Major-General Robert Fielding, a bigamist who was jailed for threatening and maltreating his wife. She died at Chiswick on 9th October 1709. Among her various illegitimate children by the King were the Duke of Grafton, the Duke of Southampton and Lady Charlotte Fitzroy, Countess of Lichfield.
Portraits of Villiers, and other of the king's mistresses, were much in demand and many copies were produced to satisfy this market. They were not cheap; Samuel Pepys could not afford one and had to settle for a print.
SIR PETER LELY (1618 - 1680) was the most important portraitist in the reign of Charles II, although he had painted portraits throughout the Commonwealth. Principal Painter to the King, he painted everyone of importance, maintaining a busy and active Studio to help with the huge demand for his portraits. Members of his Circle, and his Followers, many of them talented artists in their own right, emulated his style to supply this constant market.
SIZE: 35.25 x 30.75 x 2 inches including the frame.
*Derbyshire Private Collection. (Verso; a trade label for a now defunct Ticknall restoration studio).
*Sussex Private Collection.
Internal Ref: 9073


Height = 89 cm (35")
Width = 78 cm (31")
Depth = 5 cm (2")

This item is SOLD and is no longer available to purchase.

* This item has been sold, though you can still email the seller if you wish

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