Studies of Hands

Sir Peter Lely (Pieter van der Faes) Dutch, British

Not on view

Born and trained in Holland, Lely moved to England around 1643 and became famous for working in the aristocratic portrait style established by the Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck. Lely achieved his greatest success after the Restoration of 1660 as principal painter to Charles II, and over the following decades, the artist’s large studio, with its many assistants, would fulfill hundreds of portrait commissions. In his portraits, elegantly gesturing hands are an important compositional element. These were often based on carefully observed studies of hands like the ones shown here. About eighty such process drawings survive in public collections, indicating the importance they held for Lely’s workshop practice where assistants would translate details from drawing into paint. The drawing is an early example of a technique known as aux trois crayons, which combines red, black, and white chalk. In all but one of the studies, the artist first sketched the contours of the hands and nails in red chalk, then used black chalk for accents and shadows, and, finally, added highlights in white chalk. The collector's mark at lower right is Lely's own and would have been stamped onto the sheet at the time of his death.

Studies of Hands, Sir Peter Lely (Pieter van der Faes) (British, Soest 1618–1680 London), Red, black, and white chalk

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