Merry Monarch for Christmas; a stocking filler at Cheffin’s Fine Sale today

There’s a lovely painting in day 2 of Cheffin’s auctions Fine Sale today, this portrait of King Charles II after Lely lot 678. The painting measures only about 9 inches by 7. It’s on a fine-weave canvas laid onto a panel, and it must’ve been cut from a slightly larger painting to fit the – stunning – seventeenth century auricular frame it’s in.

(c) Cheffins Fine Art Auctioneers.

As Cheffins say, it’s after a portrait by Sir Peter Lely (1618–1680), known from a mezzotint in reverse by Alexander Browne in the National Portrait Gallery, and a small-scale copy by Mary Beale formerly with Philip Mould. The Beale is described here in Philip’s past stock catalogue, an invaluable resource, especially with so many archives currently under restriction.

(c) Philip Mould and Co.

Cheffins’s comparison with the Philip Mould painting is a very important one. They are on the same scale and the Cheffins portrait must be another version of the same composition. It’s a lovely thing. Just the right size to fit in a Christmas stocking.

The painting is from the property of the late Michael Stennett (1946–2020), the opera designer turned Suffolk painter and – according to his obituary – writer of ‘stiff letters’.

Update: it sold for £2,000 hammer against an estimate of £400 – 600. Nice one, someone. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s by Beale herself. In which case it’s interesting. The Philip Mould portrait was originally acquired with this portrait of Sir Thomas Isham Bt, Beale’s small-scale copy of Lely’s original of c.1675 at Lamport Hall.

(c) Philip Mould and Co.

There is also a studio copy of Lely’s King Charles II in armour at Lamport, and I’d always assumed that Beale must have copied them both together, perhaps for a member of the Isham family. The Cheffins painting suggests that she produced at least one other version of the Charles II. It would have been a popular image, being one of the best portraits of him, so I wonder if it was a pattern she kept a record of and reproduced for stock. Beale’s friendship with Lely is well known and she was a favoured copyist of his work. He allowed her and her husband Charles Beale the artists’ colourman the rare honour of watching him paint and studying his technique.

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