Nymphs by a Fountain
Lely always regretted the fact that he had so little opportunity to paint Arcadian scenes like this one. According to his poet friend, Richard Lovelace, England was an 'un-understanding land' where painting was concerned, with patrons only interested in adoring 'their own dull counterfeits', exuding to portraiture. This painting seems to show Lely working in the same tradition of history painting as Poussin's 'The Nurture of Jupiter' (DPG234). The nymphs have the hair-styles and the discarded clothes of the 1650s rather than of pre-history. Their bodies are not abstracted or idealised in the manner of antique sculpture. There is an element of contrivance within the composition and the five nymphs seem awkwardly combined. Two figures suggest a particular knowledge of Van Dyck and Titian; the sleeping left-hand figure (covered from the hip down in the blue drapery) recalls the figure of Psyche in Van Dyck's 'Cupid and Psyche', c. 1638 -39 (Royal Collection) which was owned by Lely during the Commonwealth, and the sleeping background nymph echoes the bottom-right-hand figure in Titian's Andrians (Pardo, Madrid).