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King James II

King James II, by Sir Peter Lely, circa 1665-1670 -NPG 5211 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Stuart Portraits Catalogue

King James II

by Sir Peter Lely
circa 1665-1670
20 1/4 in. x 17 3/4 in. (514 mm x 451 mm)
NPG 5211

This portraitback to top

Cut from a larger canvas, NPG 5211 presents a remarkable demonstration of Lely’s technique. The head is painted from the life on a terracotta-toned ground. Usually Lely would stand ‘at his easel six feet from his window with the light falling over his left shoulder, the sitter also six feet from the light and from the painter’ [1] but, given the importance of the sitter, Millar has supposed NPG 5211 was painted in the Duke’s lodgings, and that it ‘represents perhaps all that would have been painted when the sitter was confronting the painter’. [2] Subsequently the overall design of the portrait would have been laid in for completion. [3]
Amongst works by Lely listed in the Royal Collection in 1688 were The King’s Head onely dead coloured and The King at halfe length.

Footnotesback to top

1) O. Millar in Sir Peter Lely, exhibition catalogue, NPG, 1978, p 17, quoting British Museum Add.MS.22950, f.3.
2) Ibid.
3) Cf. Pepys (Diary), 18 April 1666, when he saw at Lely’s studio ‘the heads, some finished and all begun, of the Flaggmen’, Millar commenting that ‘in each case the rest of the [finished] canvas seems to show extensive participation of assistants in his studio’ (The Diary of Samuel Pepys, ed. R. Latham & W. Matthews, VII, p 102n3).

Referenceback to top

Millar 1978
O. Millar, Lely, 1978, pp 17, 60.

Simon & Saywell (eds.) 2004
Complete Illustrated Catalogue, NPG, ed. J. Simon & D. Saywell, 2004, p 332.

Provenanceback to top

D. W. Freshfield (1845-1934);1 Sabin Galleries, from whom purchased 1978.

1 Distinguished traveller and mountaineer; he and his wife began in the 1870s to collect what has been described as ‘a glorious jumble and confusion on every wall of their London home’ (H. Fisher, From a Tramp’s Wallet, 2001, pp 112-13).

Exhibitionsback to top

Henry Purcell, British Library, 1995–96; Sir Peter Lely, NPG, 1978, no.41.


This extended catalogue entry is from the National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Later Stuart Portraits 1685–1714, National Portrait Gallery, 2009, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.

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