Sir Peter Lely

James VII and II, 1633 - 1701. Reigned 1685 - 1688 (As Duke of York) (About 1661)

About this artwork

After the imprisonment and execution of his father, King Charles I, James spent several years in Paris at the exiled court of his brother, Charles II. During this period of exile James fell in love with Anne Hyde, the daughter of one of his brother’s leading advisers and maid of honour to his sister, Mary of Orange. Despite opposition from his brother and mother, James secretly married Anne in 1660. The match was officially announced in December of that year, after the Restoration that saw the return of James’s family to the British throne. Anne’s father, Sir Edward Hyde, commissioned this painting and its companion, of Anne, from Sir Peter Lely. This highly baroque portrait shows James in military attire, holding a commander’s baton in his right hand.

Sir Peter Lely

Sir Peter Lely

Lely was born in Soest, Germany, of Dutch parents. In 1637 he was registered as a pupil of Pieter de Grebber in his father's home town of Haarlem. He came to London in about 1643, and in 1647 painted the children of Charles I, in custody during the Civil War. By the end of the Commonwealth, he was the best-known portrait painter in England and, after the restoration of Charles II, he was appointed Principal Painter to the king in 1661. His society beauties are heavy-lidded and sensuous whilst his portraits of Admirals (National Maritime Museum) show a more serious side to his art. The output of his studio was huge, Lely relied heavily on assistants. He was knighted the year of his death.