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Sir Peter Lely, Bartholomew Beale, c. 1658-60 , oil on canvas. © By permission of the Trustees of Dulwich Picture Gallery.

LONDON.- In time for its 2011 Bicentenary year, Dulwich Picture Gallery announced its acquisition of the portrait of Bartholomew Beale by Sir Peter Lely.  The portrait is now reunited with its counterpart, Sir Peter Lely’s A Boy as a Shepherd, one of the most popular paintings in the Gallery’s permanent collection.

Bartholomew Beale was obtained with generous help from the Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for works of art; The Monument Trust; the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund; The Hamish Parker Charitable Trust; Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery; The Idlewild Trust; and other donors.  The acquisition means the Gallery is now the proud owner of its fifth painting by Sir Peter Lely.

Arturo & Holly Melosi Chief Curator Dr. Xavier Salomon knew of the portrait’s existence and he saw it at the London dealer Simon Dickinson Ltd.  He was already aware of its link to the Gallery’s A Boy as a Shepherd, which was given to the Gallery at its Centenary in 1911 by benefactor Charles Fairfax Murray as part of a donation of 40 paintings.  This includes the Gallery’s outstanding group of four paintings by Sir Peter Lely.  Murray had once owned both portraits and they have spectacular matching frames.  Bartholomew Beale had already been sold to a private collector by 1911, so it did not arrive at the Gallery along with its companion. It remained in private hands until it was purchased by Simon Dickinson Ltd. in January 2009.

It is particularly fitting that the portrait of Bartholomew Beale joins the collection in time for the Gallery’s 2011 Bicentenary, as A Boy as a Shepherd was a centenary gift in 1911. The latter received a complete conservation in 2008 and was unveiled for the Gallery’s 2009 exhibition Best of British.

Bartholomew Beale was the son of the painter, Mary Beale (1633-1699) whose Potrait of a Youth was also given to Dulwich Picture Gallery by Charles Fairfax Murray in 1911.  Both Lely potraits are of national interest as outstanding works by one of England's greatest painters and will greatly enhance the impressive representative range of his work that the Gallery offers.

Dulwich Picture Gallery has rarely made acquisitions of works to add to the original collection; however this portrait fulfils the criteria that would qualify it as an exceptional purchase for the Gallery due to its very strong historical connection to the existing collection. The Gallery seized the rare opportunity to re-unite the two portraits and ensure that Bartholomew Beale will be accessible to the public in time for its Bicentenary in 2011.

Dulwich Picture Gallery is immensely grateful to the donors who have enabled it to reunite these two outstanding portraits.  Ian Dejardin, Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery, said: “Enabling these two glamorous youths with their spectacular frames to resume their long-interrupted conversation is a marvellous way to usher in the Gallery’s Bicentenary celebrations.”

Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said: “With its rich tones, this stunning painting will look wonderful set against A Boy as a Shepherd and other Dulwich gems. We thank our members for their ongoing support – helping us make our contribution towards this timely purchase.”

Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680) was one of England’s most important portrait painters and the leading court painter of his generation.  It was for his portraits, set in landscape, often in a pastoral mood, for which he became most famous and of which Bartholomew Beale (painted c. 1670) is a prime example.  The reunited pair of young Lely male portraits alongside the pair of young female Lely portraits will work well for discussion and comparison by the public as well as by the participants in the Gallery’s free Schools and Outreach programmes.

Bartholomew Beale was unveiled at Dulwich Picture Gallery on 16 December, 2010.


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Sir Peter Lely, Bartholomew Beale, c. 1670 © By permission of the Trustees of Dulwich Picture Gallery.

As a child, Bartholomew Beale assisted his mother Mary Beale in her studio. It was expected that he too would become a painter. The bust upon which Bartholomew rests his hand in this portrait probably alludes to this. It appears to represent the ancient Greek poet, Homer. Blind and impoverished, Homer had long been considered the embodiment of artistic integrity, because he was true to his genius and did not seek to gain wealth from his art. As such, Homer would have acted as the perfect model for an aspiring young artist. Yet Bartholomew followed a different path and in 1680 entered Clare College, Cambridge to study medicine. In 1687, he settled in Coventry to practise as a physician until his untimely death in 1698.

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Sir Peter Lely, A Boy as a Shepherd, c.1658-60 © By permission of the Trustees of Dulwich Picture Gallery © By permission of the Trustees of Dulwich Picture Gallery

Dated by Millar c.1658-60. The portrait may have been painted for the artist Mary Beale, since it belonged to Edward Lovibond, who is said to have owned 'several' pictures from Beale's collection, and the head was on at least one occasion copied by her son, Charles. Rogers suggests that the sitter may be Beale's elder son Bartholomew (1656-1709), who is thought to be the sitter in a group of portraits by Beale (see Beale DPG574). This would require the dating of DPG563 to be substantially advanced: Rogers proposes c.1665, but the sitter appears to be more than nine years old. Horace Walpole, who bought the painting on the death of Edward Lovibond in 1776, considering its 'impasioned glow of sentiment' and 'eyes swimming with youth and tenderness', believed the painting to be a portrait of the poet Abraham Cowley (1618-67). However, Cowley would have been at least forty years old at the time the picture was painted.