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    Sale 7448

    Old Master and British Pictures

    7 December 2007, London, King Street

  • Lot 154

    Studio of Sir Peter Lely (Westphalia 1618-1680 London)

    Portrait of John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (1647-1680), three-quarter-length, in a burgundy mantle

    Price Realised  

    Studio of Sir Peter Lely (Westphalia 1618-1680 London)
    Portrait of John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (1647-1680), three-quarter-length, in a burgundy mantle
    oil on canvas
    50¼ x 40¼ in. (127.6 x 102.3 cm.)


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    The Earl of Rochester was a courtier, naval hero, critic, author, poet and libertine. He was the second, but only surviving, son of Henry Wilmot, created Earl of Rochester for distinguished service to King Charles II, and Anne, widow of Sir Francis Henry Lee, 2nd Bt. He succeeded his father in 1658 as 2nd Earl of Rochester, Baron Wilmot of Adderbury, and Viscount Wilmot of Athlone in the Irish peerage, and was admitted to Wadham College, Oxford, in 1660. There Rochester 'grew debauched' and, in the words of Robert Parsons 'suck'd from the breasts of his Mother the University ... perfections of Wit, and Eloquence, and Poetry'. Always favoured by the King, after leaving Oxford he travelled to Italy and France (he is recorded in Venice, Padua and Paris) with all expenses paid by the crown. On his return Rochester saw service on the Revenge, flagship of Captain Thomas Teddiman, and showed enormous bravery at the Four Days' Battle. In 1667 he married Elizabeth Mallet, the 'great beauty and fortune of the North', with whom he had a daughter, Anne, and for several years thereafter his life seems to have alternated between domesticity in the country and a riotous existence at court: 'He was wont to say that when he came to Brentford [on the London road] the devill entred into him and never left him till he came into the country again'. His several mistresses included Elizabeth Barry, one of the greatest actresses of the Restoration stage. Rochester patronised playwrights, was a theatre critic, author and poet. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his parliamentary career was not distinguished, and by the age of thirty-three Rochester was dying, presumably from a combination of venereal diseases and the effects of alcoholism - the authenticity of a published deathbed renunciation of atheism has been questioned.

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