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Title Queen Mary of Modena (1658-1718)
Collection English Heritage (Kenwood House)
Artist Lely, Peter (Dutch painter and draftsman, 1618-1680, active in England)
Date Earliest about 1673
Date Latest about 1680
Description Mary of Modena was the only daughter of Alfonso d'Este IV, Duke of Modena; she became the second wife of James II when Duke of York in 1673: they had two children, Isabella (1676-81) and James, the 'Old Pretender' (1685-1766). A devout Roman Catholic, she supported her husband's Catholic policy when he became King in 1685, however her religion was seen as a threat to the Protestant succession to the throne and to the religious stability of the nation. She travelled to France ahead of her husband when he fled the country in 1688. This portrait dates to the period after the Queen's wedding and before the artist's death in 1680. It is the best Lely in the Suffolk collection and appears to be largely by his hand, despite the fact he used much studio assistance at this time. Dressed in a fine pale brown silk bodice and dark silk shirts, Mary's pale features are silhouetted against the dark trunk of a tree, around her neck she wears a fillet of pearls, earthly attributes of Venus. Significantly, Mary is shown in the act of picking blossom from an orange tree. As a Marian symbol of purity and virtue the orange alludes to the sitter's patron saint and is suggestive of the sitter's excellence, while the fruits' role as an emblem of redemption (analogous to the apple of the Tree of Knowledge) may be understood in the context of the monarch's Catholic policies.
Current Accession Number 88019189
Former Accession Number 39; 381
Subject portrait (Queen Mary of Modena)
Measurements 126.4 x 102.9 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Given to the Nation by the Honourable Mrs Grenville Howard on the request of her mother-in-law Margaret Hyde, 19th Countess of Suffolk 1974.
Provenance Suffolk collection by descent, first recorded at Charlton Park 1834.
Publications Gotch, J. A., Architecture of the Renaissance in England, 1894, II, pls. 69, 70; Richardson M. E., The Lion and The Rose (The Great Story), 1922; Beckett, R. B., Lely 1951, p. 52, no. 323; O'Donoghue, F., Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits in the British Museum, 6 vols, 1908-1925, III, p. 189, nos. 9, 10; Jacob, J., The Suffolk Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, London, 1974, no. 39.
Notes

Pieter van der Faes, called Lely (1618-1680) trained with Frans Pietersz. de Grebber at Haarlem before moving lo London in 1641/3. In 1647 he became a 'freeman' of the Painter-Stainers' company on the same day as his friend the poet Richard Lovelace. The leading court portrait painter of his generation, Lely was appointed Principal Painter to the King in 1661, he was naturalised the following year and knighted the year of his death. An important collector of paintings, drawings and prints his collections were dispersed after 1680.

The painting was engraved when the sitter was Duchess of York, mezzotint, in reverse by A. Blootheling (active 1673-87) illustrated in O'Donoghue.

A copy of the painting in the same direction as the original by H. H. Quiter (active 1678-1708) also illustrated by O'Donoghue.

Rights Owner English Heritage Photo Library
Author Francesco Nevola

 

 

 

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