Portraits by royal painter go to auction

Sir Peter Lely's portrait of Lord Alington
Sir Peter Lely's portrait of Lord Alington

Two portraits by the renowned 17th century artist Sir Peter Lely that once hung in Horseheath Hall near Haverhill will this week go to auction.

The portraits are among more than 100 lots of paintings and furniture from the historic Alington Estate of Little Barford Manor, Bedfordshire included in the Fine Art Sale at Cheffins’ Cambridge auction on Wednesday and Thursday.

The two previously undocumented portraits by Sir Peter, Principal Painter to King Charles II, once adorned Horseheath Hall.

Depicted in the works are William Alington, 3rd Lord Alington, MP for Cambridge and Constable of the Tower of London and his wife, Lady Diana Alington.

Sarah Flynn, head of paintings at Cheffins, said: “It is always exciting to come across works by one of the country’s great masters of portraiture.

“Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680), was appointed Principal Painter to court of King Charles II and notable sitters included Nell Gwynn, the famous mistress of Charles II, and the “Windsor Beauties”, ten aristocratic ladies from the Royal Court and can now be seen hanging at Hampton Court Palace.

“Lely was the most fashionable and influential painter of his time and his works provide us with a clear insight into the Royal Court of Restoration Britain.

“His work hangs in some of the world’s key art institutions including the National Portrait Gallery and The Tate.

“Many, as with this pair of portraits, have remained in original family ownership since they were originally painted.

“The important pair of paintings now being offered for sale were probably executed in celebration of the marriage of Lord Alington to Lady Diana, daughter of the Duke of Bedford in 1675 and are typical of Lely’s baroque style.

“However this wasn’t Lady Diana’s first sitting for Lely, an earlier and equally beautiful portrait still hangs in her ancestral home of Woburn Abbey.”

The family eventually sold Horseheath Hall (which was demolished in 1792) to Barbados sugar planter, John Bromley, and the portraits were removed to another home of the Alington family, Little Barford Manor, Bedfordshire where they have remained for the last 300 years.

The portraits have an estimate of £12,000 to £18,000 for the pair.

They have been authenticated by an expert at the National Portrait Gallery. Also within the Little Barford Manor Collection are another 30 paintings, including a 17th century portrait of Charles II by followers of Sir Anthony van Dyck and the studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller. They form part of a remarkable collection of paintings which has also been entrusted to Cheffins for sale.

There are a further 150 lots of furniture in the Little Barford Manor Collection including a Grand Tour library table which has a marble inlay depicting classical figures, copied from the murals of Cicero’s villa in Pompeii, and a George II Irish mahogany table, these have estimates of £5,000 - £8,000 and £3,000 - £5,000 respectively.

Other lots of note in the sale, from other estates; include a rare 19th century Ottoman carved Kavukluk, or turban stand, which has an estimate of £300 to £500 and two highly sought-after sketches and a watercolour by famous artist, William Russell Flint.

There is also a painting of a pair of ducks by widely-collected German artist Alexander Koester which has an estimate of £5,000 to £8,000.

Leading the jewellery section, an Art Deco Boucheron brooch set with diamonds, jade and black onyx is set to excite the market. It has an estimate of £5,000 to £7,000. Similarly, a rare diamond, emerald and ruby star brooch of The Order of St Patrick will be popular with collectors and has an estimate of £1,500 to £2,500.

The auction starts at 11am on each day.