Portrait of a Lady
Oil on canvas
96 x 59 in. (244 x 150 cm)
By the end of the seventeenth century, women's fashions had changed from the free-flowing, low-cut gowns popular during Charles II's reign. Dresses now became tighter and less revealing; hair was worn tied up rather than flowing in long tresses. Tastes in portraiture changed, too. The reclining pose of Sir Peter Lely's day disappeared as women began to be depicted sitting up or standing. The billowing draperies seen in paintings such as Lely's Miss Wharton in the Berger Collection also vanished or at least toned down.
The portrait of a lady depicted here reflects these developments in taste. The subject is shown standing, wearing a long but not extravagant gown, and with her hair tied up to reveal her plump face. We know very little about her identity. The coat of arms on the base of the pedestal upon which she leans suggests that she is the daughter or wife of a member of the aristocracy, probably an earl. The identity of the woman portrayed in the small oval portrait she holds in her hand is also unknown.
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The Beechwood Museum, Inc., no. 12 (according to an inscription on the stretcher); Sotheby's, New York, March 27, 1987, lot 113; Christie's, New York, January 31, 1997, lot 116
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