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Two Children Singing, Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680)
Oil on canvas, English School, 17th century. Sir Peter Lely was a painter of Dutch origin who spent the majority of his career in England where he became the pre-eminent portrait painter to the court. Lely was born Pieter van der Faes to Dutch parents in Soest in Westphalia. He studied painting in Haarlem and became a master of the Guild of Saint Luke in Haarlem in 1637. He is reputed to have adopted the surname 'Lely' (also occasionally spelled Lilly) from a heraldic lily on the gable of the house where his father was born in The Hague. He arrived in London in around 1643. His early English paintings show influences from Anthony van Dyck and the Dutch baroque. Lely's portraits were well received, and he succeeded Anthony van Dyck (who had died in 1641) as the most fashionable portrait artist in England and portrait artist to Charles I. His talent ensured that his career was not interrupted by Charles's execution, and he served Oliver Cromwell. After the English Restoration in 1660, Lely was appointed as Charles II's Principal Painter in Ordinary in 1661, with a stipend of £200 per year. Lely became a naturalised English subject in 1662. 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'. Lely was knighted in 1679. He died soon afterwards at his easel in Covent Garden, while painting a portrait of the Duchess of Somerset. He was buried at St Paul's Church, Covent Garden.