King Charles II (1630-85) Reigned 1660-85
About the work
Interpretation about this artwork is under review
The Government Art Collection recognises its responsibility to artists, colleagues and all our audiences to represent the diversity of the UK and to embed anti-racist and equitable practices throughout our work. We are taking action to address inequality in the Collection and its interpretation.
King Charles II is depicted in this three-quarter-length portrait, dressed in armour and wearing the chain of the Garter. The king holds a baton in his right hand. His left hand rests against the end of the baton and just above this hand we see the crown and septre.
This is a version of a work in the British Royal Collection, by royal portraitist Sir Peter Lely. The same pose of the figure in armour was also used by Lely for his portrait of John Stone of Brightwell, which is also in the Government Art Collection (see GAC 3719). Lely’s primary version of this portrait of Charles II was at some point in its history enlarged to be a full length portrait, although the addition was removed in 1955. In a strange parallel, this version of the portrait was once enlarged at each side, but the later canvas extensions were removed during conservation work in 1987-88. A photograph in the Heinz Archive, at the National Portrait Gallery, London, shows this work before the canvas extensions were removed, when it was landscape in format.
About the artist
Peter Lely was born in Westphalia in Germany. He studied in Haarlem under Pieter de Grebber, becoming a Master of the Haarlem Guild in 1637. He relocated to England in 1641, where he succeeded Sir Antony Van Dyck as Principal Painter to Charles II. Lely presided over a large studio and employed several assistants. He frequently painted only the head of the sitter himself, before passing the work to an assistant to complete. The work of his assistants is often mistakenly attributed to Lely himself. He was knighted in 1680, shortly before his death that year. At the time of his death, over 100 canvases remained in his studio, many copies executed by assistants. His assistants also produced independent work in the style of their master.
Sir Peter, (after) Lely
- King Charles II (1630-85) Reigned 1660-85
- Oil on canvas
- height: 122.00 cm, width: 97.00 cm
- Purchased from Bonham's, 31 August 1961
- Sold through Bonhams, London, 'Old and Modern Pictures' sale, on 31 August 1961 (Lot 93), as by 'English School', 49 x 64 in.[was enlarged at sides; these later canvas extensions were removed during conservation 1987-88]; from which sale purchased by the Ministry of Works
- GAC number