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(thought to be) Nell Gwyn (1650-1687)

after Sir Peter Lely (Soest 1618 – London 1680)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

1700 - 1799

Materials

Oil on canvas

Measurements

780 x 650 mm

Place of origin

England

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Collection

Greys Court, Oxfordshire (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Greys Court, Oxfordshire, London and South East, National Trust

NT 196013

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, Nell Gwyn (1650-1687), after Sir Peter Lely (Soest 1618 – London 1680). A half-length portrait of Nell Gwyn, turned slightly to the right with her head turned slightly to the left, gazing at the spectator. She wears a low-cut black dress with brown and white edging, and has long, curly brown hair down her back. Painted with a dark background.

Full description

Oil painting on canvas, Nell Gwyn(1650-1687), after Sir Peter Lely (Soest 1618 – London 1680). A half-length portrait of Nell Gwyn, turned slightly to the right with her head turned slightly to the left, gazing at the spectator. She wears a low-cut black dress with brown and white edging, and has long, curly brown hair down her back. Painted with a dark background. Most likely a Lely but could be studio or follower of as he was much copied by other artists. Subject is dressed in what is probably a studio dress as portraits of others can be seen wearing something very similar. Much has been noted about the sitter in this painting, Nell Gwyn, and most commonly she was noted as an orange seller. However her history is more than just that. She was one of the earliest English actresses to receive prominent recognition and was a long term mistress of King Charles II. Called "pretty, witty Nell" by Samuel Pepys, she has been called 'a living embodiment of the spirit of restoration England' and has come to be considered a folk heroine. Nell and her older sister rose were hired as orange sellers by Mary Meggs (or Orange Moll), who was a friend of Nell's mother. Mary Meggs had been granted license to "vend, utter and sell oranges, lemons, fruits, sweetmeats and all manner of fruiterers and confectioners ware within the theatre" (Source: http://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclopedia/10310/). Nell and her sister sold the small, sweet 'china' orange for sixpence each. Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680), born Pieter van der Faes was of Dutch origins who spent the majority of his career in England where he became the dominant portrait painter in court. He is reputed to have adopted the surname 'Lely' (occasionally spelt Lilly) form a heraldic lily that could be found on the gables of the house where his father was born in the Hague. He came to England in the year that Van Dyck died and succeeded him as the courts most fashionable portrait painter. Demand was high and Lely and his large workshop were prolific. After Lely painted a sitter's head, his pupils would often complete the portrait in one of a series of numbered poses. As a result Lely is the first English painter who has left an enormous mass of work although the quality is variable.

Credit line

Greys Court, The Brunner Collection (National Trust)

Makers and roles

after Sir Peter Lely (Soest 1618 – London 1680), artist

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