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Peter Lely

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Portrait painter and collector of Old Masters, Sir Peter Lely (original name, Pieter van der Faes) was active in England from the early 1640s.

Born at Soest, Germany in Westphalia to Dutch parents, he trained in Haarlem becoming master of the Haarlem guild in 1637.

Little is known of his work prior to his arrival to London. He became a freeman of the Painter-Stainers’ Company in 1647 and his early English paintings were influenced by Van Dyck and Dutch baroque style. They were mainly mythological scenes (e.g., ‘Nymphs by a Fountain’, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London) and portraits set in landscape, often in pastoral mood, for which he became famous.

Lely quickly established himself as a portraitist to Charles I. Swiftly changing his patrons, his reputation and fortune grew steadily and after the execution of the king he served under Oliver Cromwell and his son.

In 1660 Charles II appointed Lely his Principal Painter in Ordinary. He was naturalized in 1662. Although his works vary in quality, and in some he was greatly assisted by his pupils, he is regarded as a leading artist of the Restoration. Lely was knighted shortly before his death in 1680.

Many of his paintings now hang in the National Portrait Gallery in London, Hampton Court, the great house at Knole in Kent, and the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, where his "Flagmen of Lowestoft" series includes George Monck, Cornelis Tromp, William Penn, George Ayscue, and Edward Montagu.

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