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Last Updated: Friday, 6 July 2007, 06:29 GMT 07:29 UK
Painting sold for castle's future
Portrait of a Young Lady and Child
There has been debate over who exactly is depicted in the painting
A painting said to depict King Charles II's favourite mistress, Nell Gwyn, has been auctioned for more than 1.5m.

Portrait of a Young Lady and Child as Venus and Cupid, a 17th Century work by Sir Peter Lely, went under the hammer at Christie's in London.

It was sold by an independent trust to raise money for the future of Chiddingstone Castle, near Edenbridge, Kent, where the painting once hung.

A Christie's spokesman said it was bought by a private collector.

The purchase price on Thursday was between the painting's estimate of 1.5m to 2m, but the exact figure was not revealed.

Secret panel

Sir Peter Lely, who was Dutch, was the official artist to Charles II.

It is believed the King kept the painting behind a secret panel in the royal bedchamber at the Palace of Whitehall.

It was traditionally believed to show Nell Gwyn with her son Charles Beauclerk - but records suggest it could also be another of the King's mistresses, Barbara Villiers, who was Countess of Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland.

The painting was sold by a trust set up in the name of the late art collector Denys Bower, in aid of his former castle home at Chiddingstone.


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