Lely, Sir Peter

, a most capital painter of the reign of Charles II. was born at Soest, in Westphalia, in 1617. His family name was Vander Vaas; but from the circumstance of his father, who was a captain of foot, being born in a perfumer’s shop, whose sign was a lily, and receiving the appellation of captain Du Lys, or Lely, our artist obtained it as a proper name. He was first instructed in the art by Peter Grebber, at Haerlem; and having acquired a very considerable degree of skill in execution, he came to England in 1641, and commenced portrait-painter. After the restoration he was appointed state-painter to Charles II. and continued to hold that office with great reputation till his death, which happened in 1680. He was seized by an apoplexy while painting a portrait of the duchess of Somerset, and died instantly, at the age of sixty-three.

Though Lely’s talents, as an artist, do not entitle him to hold a rank equal to that filled by his great predecessor, Vandyke, yet they justly claim very great respect and admiration. He fell short of Vandyke in two very essential parts of portraiture, viz. taste and expression. It is in parts only that he wrought with taste in the ringlets of the hair, for instance seldom in the actions of his figures, and scarcely ever in the tout- ensemble of his pictures. As to the expression of his portraits, it is almost entirely | described, at least in those of his females, by what the poet Las said, that he

"——————on animated canvas stole

The sleepy eye that spoke the melting soul."

The consequence is, that individual expression, the very essence of portrait-painting, is lost sight of; and a certain air of general resemblance is seen in them all. Yet Lely’s pictures, by the mastery of his execution, and his skill of imitation, where he pleased to employ it, will ever command admiration. He possessed the art of flattery more than most artists; and no doubt by that secured the approbation of his contemporaries, and consequently great practice. He acquired a very considerable fortune, of which he employed a large portion to furnish himself with a collection of pictures and drawings. These, at his death, were sold by auction, and were so numerous, that forty days were consumed in the sale; and the product amounted to 26,000l.; besides which, he left an estate he had purchased, of 900l. per annum. Among his more celebrated pictures in this country, are the series of beauties at Windsor; a remarkable picture of Charles I. and heads of the duke of York, and lady Elizabeth, at Sion-house several portraits in the gallery at Althorp the duke of Devonshire’s, lord Pomfret’s, &c. 1

1 Walpole’s Anecdotes. Dechamps and D’Arjenville. Pilkington.