This drawing is based upon the double portrait designed by Sir Peter Lely’s of Anne Hyde, the Duchess of York, and James II, currently on view in the National Portrait Gallery. This sketch is fairly similar to the original composition, notably with both figures sat in the same positions. The use of white chalk by the artist effectively evokes the details and highlights found in the original.
Lely produced a number of likenesses of the king’s brother, James Duke of York, and his first wife, Anne Hyde, over several years. Commissioned by the Earl of Clarendon, the first portrait was most probably painted after the marriage in 1660. This sketch, however, arguably matches the composition of a slightly later group portrait of the couple by Lely, which is held in the collection at Petworth House.
Born in Soest in 1618, Lely trained in Haarlem before travelling to London in 1634. He had painted the children of Charles I in 1647, whilst the king was in custody during the Civil War. After the return of Charles II and the restoration of the monarchy, Lely was appointed Principal Painter to the king and enjoyed a highly successful career at court, producing portraits of the leading figures of the day.
Peter Lely would make a number of studies when preparing a composition. Indeed, according to Oliver Millar, he was ‘a more prolific draughtsman, and made more preparatory studies in the course of his practice, than any other professional portrait-painter in London’. He clearly appreciated the value of drawings, whether as a commodity in themselves, or as a part of the artistic process.
– Millar, O. Sir Peter Lely 1618-80, exhibition catalogue, 17th November 1978 – 18th March 1979