Completed Portraits: British 16th and 17th C 34 Is this portrait of Prince Rupert of the Rhine a studio copy, or could it be by Peter Lely?

Topic: Artist

Darkened varnish makes it difficult to discern the status of this portrait but the model is definitely after Lely. There are at least four other versions on Art UK.

Studio of Peter Lely, ‘Prince Rupert, Count Palatine’, c.1670 (National Portrait Gallery, London)

Peter Lely, ‘Prince Rupert of the Rhine (1616–1682)’ (National Trust, Hartwell House)

Peter Lely, ‘Prince Rupert (1619–1682), 1st Duke of Cumberland and Count Palatine of the Rhine’, c.1665 (National Maritime Museum)

After Peter Lely, ‘Prince Rupert of the Rhine (1619–1682), KG, in Garter Robes’, before 1684 (National Trust, Chirk Castle)

Art UK adds:
Peter Harrison enquired about this painting on 18 September 2018: ‘Is this the original to Sir Peter Lely's known studio copies of the same composition, of which there are examples in the National Portrait Gallery and within a private collection?’

The collection comments: ‘The crest in the top left corner means that it is part of the Bowles Collection which came to Worcester in 1850 and is mostly portraits. On the reverse these paintings originally had a pasted slip saying, ‘Presented to the Worcestershire Natural History Society through their President Sir Charles Hastings (illegible) by George Downing Bowles, clerk m. a. (illegible) of the Shrubbery, Great Malvern, Oct. 1st 1850’.

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Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The attribution has been updated from ‘unknown artist' to ‘Peter Lely (studio of)’ and the donor’s full name and dates have been added to the artwork record.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


Nicholas Boles,

This is not my family line, but I have details of Rev. George Downing Bowles (d 1863), who descends from Charles Bowles of Chatham, High Sheriff of Kent in 1658. He donated 26 "fine old oil paintings" to the museum in 1850. The right hand arms are those of his mother Anne, daughter of Rev. James Stillingfleet, Presbyter of Worcester. The left hand arms are Bowles, quartered with Draper. The crest is Bowles, the motto I don't recognise. The Stillingfleets would be my first line of investigation into provenance, as they had a long connection with Worcester. I hope this is helpful.

This is one for Catherine Macleod and/or Diana Dethloff as current cataloguers of Lely; but, unless its status is immediately clear, its an interesting case of how Art UK might advance from an 'unknown artist' description when it clearly is broadly 'Lely' but hard to be sure if by him, from his studio, or just 'after'

I emailed Catharine McLeod and Diana Dethloff about 2 weeks ago. If we don't hear anything this week, I'll try them again before Christmas.

Peter Harrison,

I’m sure the coat of arms in the upper corner is a later addition and may well have been painted upon aquasition much later. Although the photo is some what difficult to tell there definitely appear to be some passages within this work that ring true to Lely himself.

Osmund Bullock,

Peter, as mentioned in the intro, the coat-of-arms relates to the painting being formerly part of the Bowles Collection - you will find several others in the Worcester Collection with the same arms. They are those of the Rev George Downing Bowles (1791-1863), impaling those of his wife Ann Stillingfleet - it was he who donated paintings from the collection to Worcestershire Natural History Society in 1850, whence they later passed to Worcester City Museums.

Bowles and Stillingfleet were married in 1818; so yes, the arms were clearly added to the portrait later as a sort of ownership mark - a rather misguided choice of one, it has to be said.

Barry Tsirelson,

There seem to be 2 more portraits of Prince Rupert Prince Rupert worth of consideration for "Peter Lely or studio?".
One is at Philip Mould, ascribed to "Studio". In his entry Philip Mould states - "It appears that Rupert only sat to the great seventeenth-century court painter Sir Peter Lely once and the ad vivum head study was then used as the basis for a number of compositions by Lely and his talented studio assistants."

Another one (with a slightly different pose) is at YCBA in CT, USA -, where it is also considered as "Studio".
In Frederick Duleep Singh’s “PORTRAITS IN NORFOLK HOUSES“ book (referring to 1904 Christie's sale of portraits from Raynham Hall, Norfolk) I've found a description which matches this portrait - "PRINCE RUPERT. Lot 18. Standing to the left in armour, with long red sash, holding a baton in his right hand and pointing to a camp in the distance. Size 49 by 41 Purchased by Viscount Cohen, £105."
I took a liberty to put together a table of PRINCE RUPERT portraits
discussed above for clarification.

Dimensions, cm Year Collection
1 121 x 95 Worcester City Museums
2 105.4 x 80 1670 NPG, London
3 125.5 x 100.5 NT, Hartwell House
4 123 x 99 1665 Natl Maritime Museum
5 125.5 x 103 Before 1684 NT, Chirk Castle
6 123 x 100.5 Private Coll., UK/Mould
7 125.7 x 101 1666 to 1671 YCBA

Any response from Marion Richards enquiry to "Catherine McLeod and Diana Dethloff"?

Barry, thank you for your comments, including the list of portraits. I had no reply to my email to Catharine McLeod and Diana Dethloff. I'll try again.

Jacinto Regalado,

The face might be by Lely, but not the rest, and that would be in keeping with his known practice.

Jacinto Regalado,

Quite possibly, there was never an entirely autograph version of this portrait, unless it has not survived or is untraced.

Jeni Molyneux,

Having seen this painting at close quarters today at the Worcester Art Gallery I can confirm that the painting is extremely well executed.
The face in particular is very impressive. A beautiful portrait fitting that it is in Worcester with its important civil war connections

The precise status of this item is not going to be resolved until the current Lely cataloguers get round to it, which their non-response so far to requests for a view suggests is not yet. The interim Art UK and collection resolution should probably be to call it 'Sir Peter Lely' or 'Sir Peter Lely (studio)' for more exact definition later, not just leave it as 'Unknown artist' - which it certainly isn't - and as a pointlessly open-ended discussion here for what may be a period of years. That at least puts Lely into the system as a related search term. Even in what looks like a pretty darkened state it looks probably a studio version of a familiar type, rather than a later copy, (50 x 40 in. +/-, in Garter robes against a columned background) of which Art UK alone lists another three excluding that explicitly 'after' at Chirk Castle (NT). They are probably all at least 'and studio' irrespective of how currently described, as one would expect. Worcester would do well to get theirs cleaned since it would probably come up splendidly: e.g. like this one, which Rupert gave to his secretary, Colonel Bennett:

Louis Musgrove,

Moustache- curious- the RMG version ( just above) does not seem to have a moustache ?????

Donald McKenzie,

There are seven known copies of Rupert from the studio of the Peter Lely in stock Knights Garter robes . All based on RCIN 405883. The HBC corporate office in Brampton, ON is keeper of one of these copies. The example in the HBC Museum Gallery, Winnipeg is a poor copy [1998] based on the Brampton copy. Attached photo, credit: Lauren Bosc

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Jacob Simon,

As Pieter says (26/10/2019 ), “The precise status of this item is not going to be resolved until the current Lely cataloguers get round to it, which their non-response so far to requests for a view suggests is not yet. The interim Art UK and collection resolution should probably be to call it 'Sir Peter Lely' or 'Sir Peter Lely (studio)'”

Time to close this discussion on this basis?

Marcie Doran,

Could the portrait sold at Christie's in 2007 have been the source of the original head that was used to make the copies?

Sir Peter Lely (Westphalia 1618-1680 London) and Studio
'Portrait of Prince Rupert of the Rhine (1619-1682), full-length, in Garter robes, with the chain of the Order of St. George, a jewelled garter around his left knee, a column beyond'

Of course, the works are different sizes but I have attached a composite for ease of comparison.

There are two patterns of Garter portrait of Rupert by Lely: 'earlier' and 'later' (in which he is holding the hat of the Order) as here:

All those cited here, both 3/4-length and the full-length sold in 2007, are 'earlier' and with the same columned background. Which one was, strictly speaking, the earliest and/or 'most by Lely' rather than 'studio'is not the issue here, though Oliver Millar (as prior Lely expert) and the current Lely cataloguers no doubt have things to say on that. The relevant point is summed up in this sentence from the current NMM entry on its 3/4 version (which Rupert gave to his secretary, Thomas Bennett):

'Rupert is thought to have sat only once to Lely for a head study that became the basis of subsequent portraits, painted substantially by Lely's studio assistants.'

I cannot remember whether an original 'head' study by Lely is still known but (as has already been mentioned) the earliest finished portrait from it is likely to be that of Rupert in the 'Flagmen of Lowestoft' set ( all in train in 1666) still in the Royal Collection (RCIN 405883). That is also irrelevant to the question raised here, which was simply to improve on 'unknown artist' for the Worcester Garter portrait.

This has been done: it's broadly 'Lely', be it 'studio' or 'after', and
it would be best to conclude there. Further refinement, including matters of 'what came before what', is better left to the current Lely (re)cataloguers.

Marcie Doran,

The 'Worcester & Worcestershire Antiquities' catalogue from 1862 indicates that "Prince Rupert, portrait by Lely” and other named works were donated to the Worcester Museum "by the Rev. G. Downing Bowles, formerly of Great Malvern". I have attached the relevant pages.

Osmund Bullock,

Marcie, this is old ground: see the discussion's introduction and my post of 17/12/2018 00:34 above.

Bendor Grosvenor,

Yes, we'll need Diana and Catharine to take a view on this in their forthcoming catalogue. Hard to gauge from the high-res, for which thanks, but I could see a case for Lely himself being involved in the head.

They were asked in 2018 but have not yet said anything, so the immediate issue is whether it stays open until they do or can close for the time being as 'Lely (studio)' or something similar. The one thing it isn't is 'unknown artist' (which looks like an internal collection-record failure) since it was originally presented as 'Lely', and clearly is, broadly speaking.

Worcester City Museums,

Nice to see this painting in discussion again, Worcester loves a good Prince Rupert story.
Marion, could we adjust the artist from unknown to studio of Lely please as suggested in discussion above?
Philippa, Museums Worcestershire

Jacinto Regalado,

Given the upgraded attribution, one hopes the picture could be cleaned, which will no doubt improve it significantly.

In closing this, perhaps the donor identity could also be given in full (and ideally for the other works he also presented to Worcester); i.e. the Reverend George Downing Bowles (1791-1863),

Worcester City Museums,

Jacinto - it's on the conservation priority list, but sadly there isn't currently the funds to do so.

There's a long literature on Rupert, who had a reputation for rashness as a Civil War officer but became a good sea commander and Lord Admiral for Charles II and was otherwise an interesting man.

This is just what the NMM has, Rupert
...but rather surprisingly lacking the very readable biography ('Prince Rupert: the Last Cavalier') that Charles Spencer published in 2007. It's easily picked up second-hand now for £3 to £5, well worth it, and might spark some fund-raising ideas - especially if 'Macleod & Dethloff' think Lely had some hand in the 'Worcester version'.

Jacinto Regalado,

The head (the face, and possibly the hair) might be autograph Lely. That certainly merits a proper cleaning/restoration. Can the collection get this into local or regional newspapers or media? It can say that Bendor Grosvenor believes the head could be by Lely, and of course a nod from Lely experts would be a great help. Perhaps Bendor could even put this picture on his TV show, which could solve the matter of raising funds for restoration.

Pieter, thank you for summing up the discussion. I'll update those other acquisition records later too, but the collection's reply on 29 June means we can close this now.