Portrait of the day talk: Barbara Palmer (née Villiers)

    Barbara Palmer (née Villiers), Duchess of Cleveland with her son, probably Charles FitzRoy, as the Virgin and Child,    by Sir Peter Lely,    circa 1664,    NPG 6725,    © National Portrait Gallery, London Barbara Palmer (née Villiers), Duchess of Cleveland with her son, probably Charles FitzRoy, as the Virgin and Child, by Sir Peter Lely, circa 1664, NPG 6725, © National Portrait Gallery, London

Learn more about this portrait of Barbara Palmer (née Villiers), Duchess of Cleveland with her son, as the Virgin and Child, by Sir Peter Lely.

Barbara Villiers was effectively Lely's muse, her looks the inspiration for his type of female beauty. Lely and Villiers had a mutually beneficial relationship, in which her prominence at court promoted his art and his art publicised her beauty and status. Probably dating from about 1664, the painting is a portrait historié, or a portrait showing a recognisable sitter posing in the role of a figure from history or mythology. This audacious portrait, of the King's mistress and bastard as the Madonna and Child, represents the climax of his work in this genre. It could only have been produced at this time and in this place; thus it can be seen as a fitting representation of the values of Charles II's court.

Portrait of the Day talks are given by members of the Gallery's Visitor Services Team and last for up to 30 minutes. Talks are subject to change.

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Past event archive
17 February 2024, 12.30-13.00

Meet on Floor 0, historic stairs landing

Free (drop in – spaces limited)