Circa 1690 England

Charles Beale (1660-1714) Portrait of a Lady


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Height 37 1/4 inches (94.61 cm)
Width 33 inches (83.82 cm)
Depth 2 1/2 inches (6.35 cm)

Portrait of a Lady circa 1690

Oil on canvas; held in a period carved and gilded frame

Charles Beale Junior was the third son of the painter Mary Beale. Apprenticed at the age of 17 to the miniaturist Thomas Flatman he concentrated upon this field between 1679 and 1688, but failing sight led him to turn to larger oil painting. As with his mother, his work displays an obvious debt to Sir Peter Lely, the key portrait painter in England of the late 17th century. His portraits, heavily influenced by his mother’s approach, display characteristics, particularly in the face and mouth, that lend a specific cheerful demeanour and lightness of touch which echo something of the chalk drawings in the British Museum. As has been observed before and is evident in this portrait, the softness contrasts with the more sharply delineated folds of the drapery which are coarse by comparison, but a valuable indicator of authorship. There are not many works by him extant and in the past some have been confused with that of his mother. Clearly there are others which will no doubt emerge on the art market in time particularly now that our understanding of the Beale’s working practices is more fully understood.

By the time Charles embarked on these larger portraits in the late 1680s it is presumed that he continued to work in the family studio in London but increasingly independent of his mother. Due to some of the connections of his sitters it is also thought that he worked for a time from his brother Bartholomew’s house near to Coventry, where his father moved after the death of Mary in 1699. His father died and was buried in Coventry in 1705; Bartholomew died four years later. His last known portrait is recorded in 1712 and it is noted by George Vertue that Charles possibly died in London in 1714.

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