The Berger Collection

Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680)
Miss Wharton, ca. 1660
Oil on canvas
50 1/2 x 40 1/2 in (128.2 x 102.8 cm)

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Sir Peter Lely was the leading portrait painter of his day. His sensuous brushwork and lush colors perfectly suited the taste for luxury and licentiousness in post-Cromwell England. In Lely’s portraits of society ladies, his sitters were shown in flowing gowns of silk and satin, usually off the shoulder and cut low to reveal much and sometimes all of the bosom. The youthful Miss Wharton is almost demure by contrast. She averts her eyes from our gaze, and her hands are crossed elegantly at the wrist and rest in her lap. Instead of the languid, seductive pose struck by many of Lely’s society subjects, Miss Wharton sits upright facing the viewer, a pose reminiscent of Renaissance Madonnas. Lely may have had such an image in mind when he considered how to position his subject to emphasize her innocence and purity.


Possibly bought by James Christie (1730-1803); by descent; Christie's, London, July 11, 1997, lot 5

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