Artist biography

English painter. He first appears in the pay of the Office of the Revels in 1576. In 1604 he became principal Picture Maker to Henry, Prince of Wales, and in 1607 he was appointed to the Office of Serjeant Painter, a post he held jointly with John de Critz. His works reflect the influence of the warm, brightly coloured and richly patterned miniatures of Nicholas Hilliard and firmly establish Peake within the iconic tradition of late Elizabethan painting.

Although his style was old-fashioned for the court of Prince Henry, in which were gathered some of the most brilliant figures of the age, Peake was given the task of promoting the image of the Prince as a dashing young warrior knight and variously depicted him at the hunt (Windsor Castle, Berks, Royal Col., and New York, Met.), displaying his swordsmanship (c. 1604–10; Turin, Pal. Chiablese) and mounted on horseback (c. 1610; Parham House, W. Sussex). The restoration (1985) of the latter portrait revealed a complex iconographical scheme alluding to the Prince's chivalric and soldierly attributes. He is shown leading the winged, nude figure of Time (here used in the Classical sense of Opportunity) by the forelock, while Time carries the royal helmet and lance. The many repetitious portraits produced by studio assistants attest to the Prince's popularity and illustrate how Peake's artistic talents were dampened by mass production. In 1612, shortly before the Prince's death, Peake was replaced by Isaac Oliver as principal Picture Maker.

E. Waterhouse: Painting in Britain, 1530–1790, Pelican Hist. A. (Harmondsworth, 1953, 4/1978), pp. 42–3
R. Strong: The English Icon: Elizabethan and Jacobean Portraiture (London, 1969), pp. 225–52
C. E. Bertana: ‘Il ritratto di uno Stuart alla corte dei Savoia', Stud. Piemont., xiii/2 (1983), pp. 423–6
The Treasure Houses of Britain (exh. cat., ed. G. H. Jackson-Stops; Washington, DC, N.G.A., 1985), pp. 132–3


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