Appeal to save Chiswick Duchess for nation

National Portrait Gallery in bid for painting of Barbara Villiers

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by Sir Peter Lely, c.1664

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The National Portrait Gallery has the opportunity to purchase an oustanding portrait of the Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, one of the most significant figures at the court of King Charles II. 

The painting was one of the great discoveries in the Gallery's Painted Ladies: Women at the Court of Charles II exhibition in 2001, having been lost for almost a century.

Barbara Villiers (1640-1709) was Charles II's leading mistress during the first decade of his reign, and the mother of five of his children. She set the standard for beauty in her day, but to the King's critics she represented all that was bad about the new regime. She acquired titles and great wealth, but also exerted considerable political influence through her access to the King.

She spent her last few years at Walpole House, Chiswick Mall and is buried at St Nicholas Church.

The portrait is on offer for £147,000, a favourable price for a painting of this quality and importance. Some funding has already been identified and an application has been made for grant support.

However, to make this purchase possible, the Gallery must raise £60,000 through appeal by the deadline of 29 April.

March 19, 2005