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17th Century English Portrait Of A Lady By John Greenhill (1644-1676)


"17th Century English Portrait Of A Lady By John Greenhill (1644-1676)"
Portrait of a 17th century lady, three-quarter length, in an ivory silk dress, standing on a garden terrace. The lady, painted around 1670, waves her hand towards the gardens and lands beyond her country estate, wearing a sumptuous dress of ivory silk adorned with pearls and precious stones and earrings and pearl necklace, signaling her wealth and status. She wears a ring on her left hand, which, combined with her pale dress, possibly alludes to her recent marriage. The portrait is signed with the initials 'JG' on the right in a lower fold of her robe.

Provenance:
Private collection Scottish Borders

John Greenhill was a highly skilled and talented painter whose life and career were tragically cut short. He was born in Salisbury around 1644 and was the son of John Greenhill, a merchant and later the local registrar and Penelope Champneys of Orchardleigh, Somerset. Greenhill's early artistic training is unknown, but it is believed that his first portrait was that of his uncle, James Abbot of Salisbury. He moved to London in 1662 and became a pupil of Sir Peter Lely, court painter to Charles II. Early in his career, Greenhill was hard-working and ambitious and, according to George Vertue, he was considered "the most excellent of Lely's disciples". His style was clearly influenced by Lely and Van Dyck and he quickly progressed to quitting and starting his own studio. Although he painted a variety of sitters such as James Duke of York (Dulwich Picture Gallery) and John Locke and Anthony Ashley, Earl of Shaftesbury, he greatly enjoyed being at the heart of the Covent Garden theater scene and society and the social life that surrounds it. and painted a large number of playwrights, actors and their circles. He painted in oils but also made many sketches and chalk drawings which had become very popular at the time. According to chronicler George Vertue, this led Greenhill to lead what he described as a 'dissolute' lifestyle and in May 1676, on returning home one drunken evening from the Vine Tavern, he was fell into the gutter at Long Acre, was taken home to his accommodation at Lincoln's Inn Fields and died the same night, aged just 31. He was buried near St Giles-in-the Fields. He had married young and Peter Lely gave his widow and young family an annuity to live on.

Greenhill is noted for his skill and talent in portrait painting and his untimely death renders the few extant portraits he produced extremely rare. He was described in an epitaph written by his friend, writer and actress Aphra Behn as "The Famous Greenhill". Another writer, Bainbrigg Buckeridge, wrote in his 1706 'Essay towards an English School' that if he had not died young, the effect of his too free life, England might have boasted of a painter who, according to his beginnings, would not have been much inferior to the best of foreigners... whom we have always encouraged so much in the way of portraiture.

Literature:
Ellis Waterhouse, 'Dictionary of British painters of the 16th and 17th centuries', 1981
Dethloff D, 'Greenhill, John (1644?–1676), portraitist'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. online version, May 2021
Price : $31,000
Artist : John Greenhill (1646-1676)
Period: 17th century
Style: Baroque
Condition : Good, ready to hang condition

Material : Oil on canvas
Width : 84cm (33in)
Height : 103cm (40in)

Reference : 901
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