Lely, Peter

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Lely, Peter (1618–80). Portrait painter. Born Pieter van der Faes, ‘Lely’ was a nickname borrowed from his family home at The Hague. He seems to have come to England in the early 1640s as an aspiring landscape artist. His natural enterprise procured him patronage from the Commonwealth government, and by the time of Charles II's restoration Lely enjoyed high repute as a portraitist. Within two years he had become naturalized and in receipt of a royal pension. A wonderfully fluent technician, who moved in virtuosi circles, Lely recorded the worlds of politics and fashion alike, and sometimes revealed undoubted powers of character penetration. Above all he revelled in a sensuous treatment of the human form and of costume, and his popularity obliged him to employ numerous studio assistants to the detriment of his overall output. Lely was knighted in January 1680.

David Denis Aldridge