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Life of JOHN RILEY


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  English portrait painter. His early career is obscure, but he emerged as the most distinguished figure in English portraiture in the interval between the death of Lely in 1680 and the domination of Kneller. Although he was appointed Principal Painter to William III and Mary II jointly with Kneller in 1688, his finest works are not court portraits but depictions of sitters from humble callings; the best known are The Scullion (Christ Church, Oxford) and Bridget Holmes (Royal Collection, 1686), a full-length portrayal of a nonagenarian housemaid who brandishes her broom at a mischievous pageboy.
  He was generally more successful painting men than women (he was no rival to Lely in depicting fine clothes and soft complexions) and his unassuming sincerity of presentation exemplifies a typically English approach to portraiture that he passed on to his pupil Richardson.
  
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Bridget Holmes, a Nonagenarian Housemaid
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