Sir Peter Lely (Pieter van der Faes) (Dutch, 1618–1680)
Oil on canvas
51 1/4 x 67 in. (130.2 x 170.2 cm)
Bequest of Jacob Ruppert, 1939 (39.65.3)
Lely was one of the most distinguished foreign artists nurtured in seventeenth-century England and the Capels were among the royalist families who were his patrons during the Commonwealth era. This is one of a number of family portraits commissioned in the 1650s by Arthur, second baron Capel and later first earl of Essex. In the eighteenth century, George Vertue, who was writing a history of the arts in England, saw the portraits in the library at Cassiobury Park, the Capels' great English baroque house in Hertfordshire, and described the set as among Lely's finest. The countess of Carnarvon, an amateur artist, displays a painting of a tulip bearing her signature surmounted by a coronet.