Peter Lely’s Royal Artworks

Peter Lely’s Royal Artworks


      Through the class we have read numerous stories, plays, and poems that were related to catholic women and to what was going on in England in the 17th Century. The fight for power of the church has changed time and time again between Catholics and Protestants. They were the stories, plays and even poems that represented England through the turmoil that it had undertaken, but what about the calm after the storm? This is why I have decided to pay attention to art, especially paintings done by none other than Sir Peter Lely. The Restoration period is the time when Lely is able to show his work. Lely himself became well known for paintings he was commissioned to do by King Charles II and the Duke and Dutchess of York.  Sir Peter Lely as you will see, did wonderful art pieces of the queens and kings starting from King Charles II and  King James II.



Sir Peter Lely was actually known as Pieter van der Faes, until he has changed his name. As Encycopedia Britannica online explains, Lely was not an English born artist. He was born in Germany on September 14, 1618 and was from Dutch parents. Yet he had stayed and lived in England till his death on December 7th, 1680.  They also stated that he was a Baroque Painter that had been influence by Van Dyke in mid 17th century England.

Henrietta Anne Duchess of Orleans

     Henrietta Anne was born into a Catholic Royal family and the following quote shows how serious her father King Charles I was about religion and power in England at the time. 

      "Prior to his arrival, the king had given instructions that the princess should be baptized in accordance with the rites of the Church of England, the baptism took place at Exeter Cathedral on 21 July, where a canopy of state was erected in honour of her dignity as a Princess of England" (  This piece showed that the Stuarts had wanted to show England that the Staurt family were all Catholic and show that the Crown was going to remain Catholic.  The painting below is a painting by Lely which is also an oil on canvas painting that was done in the 17th century. Once again the female is painted with a satin dress and dressed royally.

NPG 6028; Henrietta Anne, Duchess of Orleans by Sir Peter Lely 

by Sir Peter Lely
oil on canvas, feigned oval, circa 1662
30 in. x 25 in. (762 mm x 635 mm)


About This Exhibit


Yessica Mercedes Giacometti


This Exhibition is about an artist; Peter Lely and his portrayal of Royal women in the 17th Century.

"The Restoration had announced itself as initiating a period of prodigality and plenty. Re-invigoration and liberality, registered through images of fecundity and sexual potency" (pg 172, Keeble).


     Lely was commissioned by non other than Duchess of York Anne Hyde, to create a collections that they  called "Windsor Beauties", the article written by Michael Wenzel gives a history of the famous ten paintings of the collection.  With in the collection there were paintings of Barabara Palmer, Frances Stuart, Mary of Modena, and other women of royalty of the time. While Lely painted them till this day many people even historians don't know where exactly the paintings are located. Some say that the maybe in the white room in St James's palace while some say that they may actually be in White Hall. Take a look and decide where those master pieces are! (click the button for the document)





NPG 5077; Anne Hyde, Duchess of York; King James II by Sir Peter Lely

by Sir Peter Lely
oil on canvas, 1660s
55 in. x 75 1/8 in. (1397 mm x 1920 mm)
Purchased, 1976



       Anne Hyde had a bit of controversy when she  had presented herself to be pregnant by non other that James II.  As Keeble explains on page 96, Anne Hyde was a "woman of high spirits", she let it be known that she was even married to James which back then was Duke of York. Although at first they were furious her father was then envied because Anne had become part of the line to the thrown.  Anne Hyde was a Christian and James II had converted into Christianity when he was King.  But why was she not shown in the painting by Peter Lely as a Catholic. In the painting above we are able to see that Lely painted her and King James II in royal gowns that the texture appears to be of Satin. That  is the first symbol of Royalty because back then not everyone could afford satin.  Another topic of discussion could be the entire dress that Anne is wearing.  The dress appears to be a hue between blue and purple with a low cut around the front. 










 It is said that Peter Lely painted this picture ironically due to Barbara's history. She is depicted her with more vibrant colors to resemble the work of Michael Angelo.

by Sir Peter Lely

oil on canvas, circa 1664
49 1/8 in. x 40 1/8 in. (1247 mm x 1020 mm)



     Even though he was contracted by the Stuarts since the restoration period, he crafted many art works of many royals outside the  Stuarts. Within the Windsor Beauties, he did not just paint women from the royal family but also prostitutes.  Anne Hyde had shown that she wanted a collection of paintings of women that in her eyes were strong in might just like she was. One of the women was  Barbara Palmer which had been a mistress to King Charles II. Which shows that even though being Catholic Anne admired the women of her time that set out to make a difference. Every one that saw the paintings were in aw due to the beauty of the women and that specially of Elizabeth Hamilton (Smith, Charles Saumarez). 

* the quote is what Lely had described her as when he was painting her*


She had a lovely figure, the fairest bosom and arms in the whole world; she was tall, and gracious in the littlest movement she made. (Smith, Charles Saumarez)



  •  Theses links are for the National Portarit Gallery in London where I got the paintings and infromation about what type of paintings they are.

Smith, Charles Saumarez. "Painted Ladies." History Today 51.10 (2001): 12. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28  Nov. 2014.

  • Peter Lely's Biography information

  • Information about Herrietta Anne, Dutchess of Orleans

Wenzel, Michael. "The Windsor Beauties By Sir Peter Lely And Collection Of Paintings At St James's Palace, 1674." Journal Of The History Of Collections 14.2 (2002): 205-213.Historical Abstracts. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

  • Information on the Windsor beauties