b. 1618 Germany, d. 1680 London
His real name was van der Faes, but Peter Lely took his nickname after a family home with a lily on its gable. Born in Germany to Dutch parents, by 1637 he was Pieter Lely at the Guild of Saint Luke in Haarlem, where he trained. Ten years later he was in London, where he painted landscapes, religious scenes, and history pictures but quickly recognized the strength of the market in portraiture. Working for many of the late Anthony van Dyck's patrons, Lely took the opportunity to study his predecessor's paintings carefully. He incorporated van Dyck's sense of scale, shimmering handling of paint, and repertoire of design and accessories with his own impeccable drawing and Dutch qualities of rich color, dramatic lighting, and romantic landscape. In 1661 Lely became the Principal Painter of the restored English monarchy; he succeeded in capturing the court's sensuous languor and also assembled one of England's finest art collections. For years Lely had no serious rivals, and he was enormously influential. Demand was overwhelming, and his studio was a well-oiled machine; by 1670 he had numbered his poses. After painting the sitter's head from life, Lely's contribution ranged from completing the entire portrait to simply handing it over to assistants. He died at his easel of an apoplectic fit, possibly caused by overwork.
L. de Keroualle