Both William and his brother, the lawyer Sylvester Petyt (1638/9-1719), were closely associated with the artist Richard van Bleeck. Sylvester Petyt bequeathed two half-length portraits depicting himself and William to his nephew. Today portraits of William Petyt are in the collections of Ermysteds Grammar School in Skipton, Yorkshire, and at the Inner Temple, London. The origins of this three-quarter length portrait by Bleeck are unknown although intriguingly, the Inner Temple portrait (presented by the Librarian in 1901) is not the portrait described in the ‘1901 Calendar of the Inner Temple Records’:
‘A portrait of William Petyt has hung for many generations in our parliament chamber. It represents him in a garb, probably that of keeper of the tower records. One hand holds a parchment deed, the other has a half open book. In the upper corner is his coat of arms, together with his motto, ‘Qui s’estime Petyt deviendra grand’.’
Apart from the coat of arms and motto, this work matches the description. It is also similar in design and identical in size to a portrait of William’s brother, commissioned from van Bleek by Barnard’s Inn in 1710 and now in the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Little is known about the Dutch painter Richard van Bleeck (c.1670-c.1733). He was born at The Hague and died in London. Bleeck was in London by 1715, when he painted a portrait of the playwright and poet William Congreve (1670-1729), which shows the sitter in quiet contemplation, holding a manuscript copy of two plays by his friend Vanbrugh. The painting is now in the Stedelijk Museum Vanderkelen-Mertens, Leuven, in Belgium.
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