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Sir Peter Lely's most captivating portraits are those of women. Within Charles II's court at Westminter, women became powerful not solely through marriage but by flirtation and above all through their beauty. Courtiers and the King himself openly took mistresses, and sensuality in looks and dress was highly fashionable amongst Peter Lely's female patrons. In this portrait, the low-cut, off the shoulder, flowing silken gown has replaced the modest 16th century dress. Her hands and arms are elegantly positioned, and the handling of paint and colours are equally rich and alluring. Her face is reminiscent of the women in Peter Lely's famous series of paintings The Windsor Beauties. These portraits represent the most influential and beautiful women of the court, and their faces became patterns for many of Sir Peter Lely's other important commissions.
Beginning his career as a painter after the death of Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Sir Peter Lely became the most respected and wealthy painter of his day. For two years, he was a pupil to Frans Pieterszon de Grebber in Haarlem, and from 1637 onwards he accompanied William II of Orange to England until, in 1641, the prince married the daughter of Charles I in London. He fell into favour with the King and the nobles, and, during the Civil War, he painted a portrait of Charles I in prison shortly before his execution. He also painted an effigy of the Leader of the Commonwealth, Oliver Cromwell.
In 1660, Charles II gave Peter Lely the title of `Court Painter.' He was knighted, and was appointed chamberlain which entitled him to a fixed pension, and it became the height of English fashion to be painted by him in his sutdio in Convent Garden. He became, through his private studio and work for the court, an extremely wealthy man.
Sir Peter Lely's influence spread as far as America through the intermediary Thomas Smith. His influence can also be seen in the portraits of his contemporaries Mary Beale, Gerard Uilenburg, J.B. Jaspers (called `Lely's Baptist'), and also in the work of his pupils John Greenhell, Willem Wissing, J. Buckshorn, and Davenport.