In addition to achieving renown as a painter, Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680) amassed one of Englands first great collections of drawings. A display of a selection of drawings from Lelys collection will be on view in The Courtauld Gallery
concurrently with the exhibition Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision.
Lely showed a particular preference for Italian drawings of the 16th century and the display includes works by, amongst others, Fra Bartolommeo, Parmigianino, Giulio Romano, and Domenico Campagnola. Such works as Polidoro da Caravaggios studies of armour may have provided ideas for potential compositions, poses and drapery in both his portraits and his narrative paintings whereas the dramatic red chalk Rearing horse, now attributed to Francesco Salviati, may have been enjoyed as a more highly finished example of Italian draughtsmanship. Also of interest is the enigmatic large Last Judgement, which is related to Michelangelos composition for the Sistine Chapel.
Lely seems to have considered his collection both as a means of self-education and an expression of his taste and discernment. Estimated to have numbered some 10,000 works, Lelys collection of drawings and prints was dispersed in a series of auctions after his death. Each work was stamped with a distinctive PL mark by the artists executor and they can now be found in museum collections across Europe and North America.
A selection of Lelys own drawings will be displayed alongside works from his collection. Primarily hand and drapery studies, these delicate sketches provide a glimpse into Lelys practice as a portraitist. A special highlight is his Two heralds in ceremonial dress, a beautiful and highly detailed costume study of figures in a procession of the Order of the Garter.
Taken together, these drawings reveal a more private side of Lely, as worthy of exploration as his sparkling paintings.