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Nell Gwyn

7 of 30 portraits of Nell Gwyn

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Nell Gwyn

by Gerard Valck, after Sir Peter Lely
line engraving, circa 1673
13 3/4 in. x 10 3/8 in. (348 mm x 264 mm) paper size
acquired unknown source, 1950
Reference Collection
NPG D10959

Sitterback to top

  • Eleanor ('Nell') Gwyn (1651?-1687), Actress; mistress of Charles II. Sitter associated with 30 portraits.

Artistsback to top

  • Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680), Portrait painter. Artist associated with 843 portraits, Sitter in 19 portraits.
  • Gerard Valck (1651 or 1652-1726), Engraver. Artist associated with 33 portraits.

This portraitback to top

She is shown here as a shepherdess garlanding a lamb, a pose that Lely often employed in the 1670s. But while there is almost never any distinction between the poses Lely used to portray respectable women and those of more dubious reputations, portraits that include bare breasts seem exclusively to depict mistresses.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG 3811: Nell Gwyn (from same plate)
  • NPG D11443: Mary (née Kirke), Lady Vernon (from same plate)
  • NPG 3976: Unknown woman, formerly known as Nell Gwyn (after)

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Perry, Gill (introduction) Roach, Joseph (appreciation) and West, Shearer (appreciation), The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons, 2011 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 2011 to 8 January 2012), p. 67

Events of 1673back to top

Current affairs

Controversially, James, Duke of York marries a Catholic, Mary of Modena, daughter of Alfonso IV, Duke of Modena.
Parliament passes anti-Catholic legislation, the Test Act, which excludes recusants from public office. Officials are required to take an oath and deny the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.

Art and science

Poet laureate, John Dryden, influenced by the war against Holland, writes Amboyna, a tragedy about the Amboyna massacre,1623, when English sailors were murdered by Dutch traders in Indonesia.
The Chelsea Physic Garden is established by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries to train apprentices in plant identification.

International

War with Holland culminates in the Battle of Texel which effectively exhausts both sides, but results in a strategic Dutch victory. With tension mounting between the allies, lord of the Admiralty, Prince Rupert, blames the unsatisfactory outcome on French admiral d'Estrees, and poor provisions.

Tell us more back to top

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