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 Lely, Peter (Dutch painter and draftsman, 1618-1680, active in England) , Portrait of Oliver Cromwell

Core Record

Title Portrait of Oliver Cromwell
Collection Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Artist Lely, Peter (Dutch painter and draftsman, 1618-1680, active in England)
After Cooper, Samuel (English miniaturist, probably born 1608, died 1672)
Date Earliest about 1653
Date Latest about 1654
Description Portrait of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), painted just after the inauguration of the Protectorate. This painting became, to some extent, the official image of Cromwell. The body is modelled closely on Van Dyck. Lely gives Cromwell a martial image, retaining a plain style of collar and black armour. Unusually, Cromwell's eyes do not meet ours or even look up. Instead, they look down and to his left, giving the portrait a somewhat distant, contemplative tone.

It was Sir Peter Lely that Cromwell was reported to have advised to 'use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me & not flatter me at all. But remark all these ruffness, pimples, warts and everything as you see me' (Knoppers, 2000). These comments were first recorded in the eighteenth century by George Vertue and are thought by some to refer not to Lely but to Cooper, whose watercolour miniature resembles Lely's painting. It is not clear whether Lely was inspired by Cooper's image or vice-versa.

Current Accession Number 1949P27
Former Accession Number P.2749
Inscription front lc 'P Lely Fe (P & L in monogram)'; 'OLIVER CROMWELL Ptor'
Subject portrait (Oliver Cromwell)
Measurements 76.2 x 62.9 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Purchased from H. J. Spiller Ltd. 1949.
Provenance William Powlett, 1735 [;]; Lord John Cavendish, 1750; by descent to Captain, the Hon. J. C. C. Cavendish; J. C. C. Cavendish sale, Sotheby's, 22 June 1949, lot 46.
Principal Exhibitions Exhibition of Paintings from 1642 to 1651, Worcester, 1951, cat. no. 27; Pictures from the Birmingham Art Gallery, Agnew's, 1957, cat. no. 5; Principal Contemporary Portraits of Oliver Cromwell, National Portrait Gallery, 1958, cat. no. 11; Primitives to Picasso, Royal Academy, 1962, p. 297; The Orange and the Rose, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1964, cat. no. 38; A Pageant of Canada, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, cat. no. 35; Two Centuries of English Painting, British Council, Prague and Bratislava, 1969, cat. no. 91, Vienna,, cat. no. 37; Samuel Cooper, National Portrait Gallery, 1974; English Portraits, 1975, The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, cat. no. 7; Artistic Relations between Madrid - London, 1604 - 1654, Prado, Madrid, 2002, cat. no. 35.
Publications Illustrations, 1952, p. 25; Piper, D. T., The Walpole Society, vol. 34, 1958, pp. 31-2, 39-40; Waterhouse, E. K., Painting in Britain 1530 - 1790, 1953, p. 61; Piper, D. T. , The English Face, 1957, pl. 52; Crino, A. and O. Millar, 'Sir Peter Lely and the Grand Duke of Tuscany',Burlington Magazine, vol. 100, 1958, p. 127; Ford, B. (ed.), The Cambridge Guide to the Arts in Britain. Volume 4. The Seventeenth Century, Cambridge, 1989, p. 254; Knoppers, L. L., Constructing Cromwell. Ceremony, Portrait and Print 1645 - 1661, Cambridge, 2000, pp. 80 - 81; Catalogue of Paintings in Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, 1960, p. 90; Sir Peter Lely, National Portrait Gallery, p. 46; Cooper, J., Oliver the First. Contemporary Images of Oliver Cromwell, National Portrait Gallery, London, 1999; Knoppers, L. L. 'The Politics of Portraiture: Oliver Cromwell and the Plain Style', Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 51, 1998, pp. 1283-319.
Notes Documentary evidence points to this having been painted before October 1654 (see Catalogue of Paintings in Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, 1960). Engraved by J. Faber, 1735 and 1740 as painted in 1653 and in the collection of William Powlett, reissued in 1750 as in the collection of Lord John Cavendish; Anon. (inscribed 'Painted by Sr. P. Lily after the original Linning of Cooper's', c. 1730.

Many copies and other versions survive. There is a version in the Pitti Palace, Florence, one in the National Gallery fo Ireland (with inscription) and one in the collection of Sir Danvers Osborn (signature and inscription). A version was sold at Sotheby's, 21 December 1983, lot 1 as after Sir Peter Lely. Another version was acquired by Auckland City Art Gallery from a New Zealand owner who originally purchased it in London.

Rights Owner Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Author Dr Patricia Smyth



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