One of the studies of portrait figures taking part in the ceremonies of the Order of the Garter on St George's day, April 23rd, two poor knights of Windsor; in conversation, both wearing mantles over their cassocks, he on left wearing skull-cap and holding stick, he on r, bare-headed and holding a broad-brimmed hat in his left hand Black oiled chalk, heightened with white, on blue-grey paper
- Height: 530 millimetres
- Width: 381 millimetres
Stainton & White 1987
Figures from the procession of the Order of the Garter on St George's Day
Lely's drawings showing figures taking part in the procession of the Order of the Garter are among the most splendidly baroque to have been made in England. Although over thirty such drawings are known today, it is remarkable that there does not seem to have been any contemporary reference to them, nor do they appear to have been in any of Lely's sales. The earliest notice of any of these drawings so far discovered is in the sale catalogue of the painter Charles Jervas, in which lot 1666 on the twentieth day (the sale began on 24 March 1740) was a group of "8 of the poor Knights of Windsor, in Caricatura, S. P. Lely". Sixteen drawings from the series were included in an anonymous sale held by De Leth in Amsterdam in March 1763: they were bought by Johan van der Marck and dispersed after his death (several, including 1847,0326.15, are now in the British Museum).
Neither the dating nor the purpose of these drawings has been firmly established. Charles II revived the Order of the Garter after the Restoration, and the annual procession and related ceremonies were held with great magnificence: a new form of ceremonial dress for the Knights was introduced, to be seen at its clearest in 1847,0529.12. The earliest date for Lely's drawings is probably 1663, the year in which Captain Vaughan (1847,0326.17) was admitted as a Poor Knight; while the latest date must be 1671, the year in which Sir Henry de Vic (c.1599-1671), Chancellor of the Order, who is the subject of another drawing from the same series, in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Brown (1982) 154), died. Although, as Sir Oliver Millar has pointed out, the finished, self-contained quality of the drawings suggests that they may not have been intended as studies for a more elaborate composition, it is nevertheless significant that Lely owned a particularly beautiful oil sketch by Van Dyck (now belonging to the Duke of Rutland), originally painted for Charles I in about 1638, showing the King, Officers and Knights of the Garter "goeing a Precessioning upon St Georgs day". This is the only surviving evidence of a scheme described by Bellori in 'Le Vite dei Pittori, Scultori ed Architetti moderni. . .', Rome, 1672, pp. 262-3, for the decoration of a great room at Whitehall (at that period, the processions sometimes took place in London) with tapestries illustrating the history and ceremonial of the Order. It is not impossible that Lely contemplated some grand scheme - a series of life-size portraits, or a large subject-picture - devoted to the Garter, probably to be carried out at Windsor, where the Order had its Chapel and where Lely's friend Hugh May was in charge of the King's ambitious projects for rebuilding and decorating the Castle. In the post-Restoration period, the renewed veneration for the Order, combined with a new interest in medieval history, were probably the stimuli for the book by the antiquary Elias Ashmole (1617-92), 'The Institution, Laws & Ceremonies of the most Noble Order of the Garter', published in 1672 with illustrations by Hollar, and suggest that Lely was not alone in his plans to celebrate the Order. Ashmole himself was Windsor Herald, and was probably one of the figures represented in another drawing from Lely's series, formerly in the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, but lost during the Second World War.
The drawings illustrated in Stainton & White 1987 are from the group of sixteen in the British Museum (two of which are offsets); they are arranged in the order in which the figures would have walked in the procession, as shown in Hollar's etching (see Stainton & White 1987, p. 132). The vivid quality of movement which Lely captures with such ease, to be seen particularly in 1847,0529.11, suggests that he must himself have witnessed the event. Where Hollar gives us practical information on the exact form of dress (see Stainton & White 1987, p. 135) and ceremonial to be observed, but makes no attempt to depict recognisable individuals, Lely (who sometimes skimps on detail, omitting the collar of the Order or, as in 1847,0529.11, the bows by which it is attached to the mantle) does so, and at the same time suggests the splendour and swagger of the Knights, while depicting the simpler dress and mien of the Poor Knights with sympathetic gravity.
A full account of Lely's Garter drawings is to be found in Sir Oliver Millar's catalogue of the Lely exhibition held at the National Portrait Gallery, London, in 1978.
British Imp PII
1978/9 Nov-Mar, NPG, 'Sir Peter Lely', no. 87 1987 June-Aug, BM 'Hilliard to Hogarth' no. 93 1987 Sept-Nov, New Haven, 'Hilliard to Hogarth' no. 93
Prints & Drawings
One of the studies of portrait figures taking part in the ceremonies of the Order of the Garter on St George's day, April 23rd, two poor knights of Windsor; in conversation, both wearing mantles over their cassocks, he on l wearing skull-cap and holding stick, he on r, bare-headed and holding a broad-brimmed hat in his l hand Black oiled chalk, heightened with white, on blue-grey paper
Object reference number: PDB1268