8 June 2006
Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680)
The Finding of Moses
signed and dated 'PL[in monogram]ely 1640' (on a rock, lower left)
oil on canvas
38 x 54 in. (96.5 x 137.3 cm.)
Comte de Cavens; his sale, Brussels, 23 May 1935, no.50, as by Benjamin Cuyp.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 10 April 1991, lot 13.
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J. Foucart, 'Tableaux des Ecoles du Nord: un bilan d'acquisitions', La Revue du Louvre et des Musées de France 5-6, 1983, p.361, no.21.
J. Foucart, 'Peter Lely, Dutch History Painter', Mercury, 1989, no.8, pp.23-24, fig.8.
This picture is a rare example of Lely's landscapes with 'small figures' before he came to England, circa 1643. In London he flourished as a portraitist, and although he continued to paint some history and subject pieces, including the Italianate Nymphs by a Fountain (c.1650, Dulwich Picture Gallery), Lely found the demand for his portraiture greater, filling the gap left by the death of Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641).
In the earliest published account of Lely's career, 1695, Richard Graham states that the artist 'persu'd the natural bent of his Genius in Landtschapes with small Figures, and Historical Compositions: but finding the practice of Painting after the Life generally more encourag'd, he apply's himself to Portraits...'.
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