Sotheby’s to Offer A Most Seductive Painting in British Art at Old Masters Sale

artwork: "Portrait of a Young Woman and Child, as Venus and Cupid" by Peter Lely dated 1732, at Sotheby's in London. The painting is estimated to sell for £600,000-£800,000 (US $960,000-$1.3 million) when it is auctioned on July 6. -  Photo : Reuters

LONDON.- Possibly the most seductive image in British art, this ravishing portrait was recorded as; “Nell Gwin naked leaning on a bed, with her Child by Sr Peter Lilly. This picture was painted at the express command of K. Charles 2d nay he came to Sr Peter Lillys house to see it painted when she was naked on purpose. afterwards this picture was at Court. where the Duke of Buckingham took it from (when K. James went away,) as may others did the like.” These words were written by George Vertue in 1723 when he visited Buckingham House to see the collection of the courtier, John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham. The presence in the Royal Collection of such a fascinating picture was confirmed by the publication in 1758 of the Catalogue of… Pictures… belonging to King James the Second, where reference is made under no. 305 to such a picture being artfully concealed – “By Danckers and Sir Peter Lely. The sliding piece before Madame Gwynn’s picture naked, with a cupid.” The portrait was probably still at Buckingham House in 1746, as ‘a naked Lady and son, Lely’ is recorded in an inventory of that year.