Sir Peter LelyTwo Ladies of the Lake Family c.1660

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Artwork details

Sir Peter Lely (1618‑1680)
Two Ladies of the Lake Family
Date c.1660
MediumOil paint on canvas
Dimensionssupport: 1270 x 1810 mm frame: 1462 x 2018 x 95 mm
Acquisition Purchased with assistance from the Art Fund 1955
On display at Tate Britain
Room: 1650


Two richly dressed ladies are shown as though seated in a garden. The lady on the right wearing a bronze satin dress is somewhat older than her companion. The lady on the left in rich blue satin plays a guitar, an instrument that had just become fashionable at the English court. Lely has painted it in such detail that it can tentatively be identified as having been made in Paris in around 1660 by the Voboam family. Her left hand appears to hold down a chord which her right hand is positioned to strum. Strummed chords were an important element of seventeenth century guitar music, as distinct from lute music in which the strings were mainly plucked (information from Peter Forrester).

The sitters cannot be firmly identified, although a reference in a 1725 inventory of the property of James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos (1673-1744) - to a portrait of 'Sr. Lanc. Lake of Cannon's Lady, and Lady Essex Check' - may be to this work. But as Frances Cheke (died 1678) was already the wife of Sir Lancelot Lake (died 1680) by 1638, she would have been too old to be the lady on the left. Moreover, her mother Essex Rich, wife of Sir Thomas Cheke, had died in August 1658. Sir Lancelot and his wife had a daughter, Essex Lake (born 1638) who was to become Lady Drax: she could be one of the ladies portrayed here… (read more)

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