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Impressive Charles II portrait expected to achieve £3 – £5k in Staffordshire auction

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The county of Staffordshire is heavily entwined with Charles II’s dramatic exile following his defeat by Cromwellian forces at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Leaving the city by the northern gate, the King and his party made for the Catholic stronghold of Shropshire via the Staffordshire countryside; seeking refuge in the homes of loyal Catholic nobles on their way and spawning the legend of the Royal Oak at Boscobel House, in which Charles allegedly hid whilst staying at the nearby White Ladies Priory on the Staffordshire/Shropshire border. 

 
With the county’s close links to the dramas of the English Civil War, Staffordshire auction house Cuttlestones is delighted to handle the sale of a substantial oil on canvas portrait of the Charles II from the studio of Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680). Presented in its original carved gilt frame the three-quarter length portrait depicts the King wearing the blue sash of the garter and armour breastplate over an ochre doublet, holding a baton in his left hand, and is expected to achieve in the region of £3,000 – £5,000 at the Penkridge auction house’s Friday 14th March Fine Art Sale.
 
In an interesting twist, from the mid 1980s, the portrait hung at Black Ladies Priory on the edge of Boscobel parish before the vendor moved to nearby Brewood. During the dissolution, Black Ladies was made part of the estate of the owners of both Boscobel House and nearby Chillington Hall, the Giffard family, along with White Ladies Priory. Staunch Catholics and leaders of the Recusancy of the faith in the region, the Giffards were keen supporters of the Royalist cause; with Charles Giffard among the loyal nobles in the King’s party during his flight from Worcester. Giffard arranged the King’s refuge at Boscobel with the Catholic Penderel brothers – servants who managed the houses on this part of the estate – and the legend of the Royal Oak was born. Cuttlestones’ Picture expert, William Lacey, says of the lot:
 
This is a fine contemporary portrait of a King who ruled during one of the most dramatic periods in British history. As the court’s dominant portrait painter, Sir Peter Lely was commissioned by the King to produce portraits as gifts for nobles across the country loyal to his cause. In many cases, Lely would paint the face and hands of the subject before handing over to his studio painters to complete the work. According to the vendor, this piece originally bore a plaque stating that the portrait was gifted to Sir Henry Oxenden, 1st Baronet, for services rendered in the Royalist cause.
 
While it is not possible to substantiate this claim it is highly possible that Oxenden would have been in receipt of such a portrait; he sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1645 and 1660 and was a well known supporter of the Royalist cause during the civil war. The fact that the piece hung for several decades in a substantial country home with such close links to the King’s exile is most fitting.”
 
Carrying an estimate of £3,000 – £5,000 the painting will come under the hammer at Cuttlestones’ Friday 14th March Fine Art Auction in Penkridge, Staffordshire. The full catalogue will be available online at www.cuttlestones.co.uk from Friday 7th March and viewing will take place from 10am – 7pm on Thursday 13th March and on the morning of the sale. Commission, telephone and live online bidding via www.the-saleroom.com are available for those unable to attend in person.
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