Sir Peter Lely
- Sir Peter Lely
- Portrait of Alice Woodforde (née Beale)
half length, standing in a landscape
oil on canvas, in an important English Rococo frame of circa 1745-50
From whom acquired by Edward Lovibond;
By descent to his son Edward Lovibond (1724-1775);
His deceased sale, May 27-28, 1776;
Charles Fairfax Murray;
From whom acquired circa 1885 by Charles Butler (1822-1910), Warren Wood, Hertfordshire;
Thence by descent to Charles H.A. Butler and by descent in the family.
This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the paintings of Sir Peter Lely, by Diana Dethloff and the late Sir Oliver Millar.
This beautiful portrait depicts Alice Beale, the cousin-in-law of Mary Beale, one of the leading Restoration portrait painters. Alice, Charles Beale's cousin, was painted between 1662 and 1664 and is remarkably well-documented for a portrait of this period.
The Beale family and Lely were longstanding friends. Mary's father certainly knew Lely, as he sat to the artist for his portrait, and there are references to communication between Mary and Charles Beale and Lely from at least 1659. Early sources suggest that Beale trained as an artist under Lely; however, this seems unlikely as in the early 1670s Mary and her husband commissioned two portraits of friends in order that they could observe Lely work. Surely if Mary Beale had trained in Lely's studio, she would have been very familiar with Lely's methods. Mary and Charles had sat for Lely in about 1660/1 but as Charles noted in his diary, sitting for Lely did not allow the opportunity of seeing how the artist actually worked. That Lely allowed the Beales access to see him work is highly unusual and implies that Lely filled the role of mentor to his friend.
Alice Beale was Charles Beale's cousin and married a close friend of the Beales, the poet Samuel Woodforde, in October 1661. Alice and Samuel Woodforde spent most of their short married life in Charles and Mary Beale's house in Hind Court off Fleet Street, until Samuel's aunt relented and they were able to move to his family home. However, the marriage was brief, for Alice died in January 1664, shortly after giving birth to their second child. Following her death, Woodforde moved back to Hind Court. It was probably at that time that the present portrait of Alice and the portrait of Mary and Charles Beale's son, Bartholomew (see following lot), were brought together. Woodforde later remarried and it is likely that the portrait of Alice Beale remained in London with Charles and Mary Beale.
The present work is notable for the beauty of its execution: the portrait of Alice is particularly tender and the poignant history underlying its creation may explain both the quality of its execution and the sensitivity of the characterisation. Samuel Woodforde noted in his diary in October 1662 that Wee are this morning going to Mr P Lely's and my wife sits for her picture to him ... Wee dined at Mr Lelys who hath by my wife made an excellent Picture. (Yale University, Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript Library). It appears that the "excellent picture" was unfinished at the time of the Woodforde's dinner with Lely and one can assume that, as was his usual practice, Lely had completed the head. After the untimely death of Alice, Woodforde was evidently anxious to take possession of his wife's portrait and in September 1664 he recorded that I went to my Cosin Moll Smith to fetch her to goe along with Cosin Beale here and myself to Mr Lelys to sitt for the finishing my dearest dearest Alices picture begun by him long ago soone after we were married, it is exceedingly like and by it I am able perfectly to remember her. Cosin Mary Beale here sate for the hands and Cosin M Smith for the brest both wich Mr Lely hath done excellently this day. (S. Woodforde's diary of 1663-4, entry for 24th September 1664; Oxford Bodleian Library. Quoted in E. Walsh and R. Jeffree, editors, The Excellent Mrs. Mary Beale, 1975-6, p. 13).
The important English frame of circa 1745-50 appears to have been made for this portrait and is en suite with a companion portrait of Bartholomew Beale from the same collection (see following lot), as well as another major Lely of the same period, A young man as a shepherd (London, Dulwich Picture Gallery), which was also owned by Edward Lovibond, Jr., and subsequently by Charles Fairfax Murray who presented it to Dulwich College Art Gallery at about the same time that Charles Butler acquired the portraits of Bartholomew and Alice Beale from him.
A note on the Provenance:
Edward Lovibond, Sr., a successful city merchant and a Director of the East India Company, purchased the estate of Carroun's at Vauxhall in 1725, the year after the birth of his son, also named Edward. Lovibond appears, from contemporary records, to have been a friend of the Beale family and he probably acquired the two portraits of Alice and Bartholomew, as well as the canvas at Dulwich College, directly from the Beale family. Edward Lovibond Jr. entered Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1739 and became reasonably well known as a poet (as well as moving in the same circles as Horace Walpole). He died in 1775.
Charles Fairfax Murray (1849-1919) was a painter who worked in the studios of Rossetti, Burne-Jones and Watts and was closely involved with William Morris. Murray, who had homes in London and Paris, spent much of his life in Italy and developed a well deserved reputation as a connoisseur and advised many museums, dealer and collectors including Ruskin, Samuel Bancroft and Charles Butler. In 1910 he sold his collection of Old Master drawings to J.P. Morgan and he was a generous benefactor to many museums.
Charles Butler, a director of the Royal Insurance Company, formed an important collection of Old Master paintings, as well as a substantial library and a collection of works of art. Charles Fairfax Murray appears to have been Butler's mentor, from at least early 1883 when he advised him on the acquisition of a triptych attributed to Ottaviano Nelli. Within a few months he had been responsible for Butler's purchase of seven paintings from the Toscanelli collection in Florence. Butler's collection was largely dispersed in a posthumous sale held at Christie's in 1911.