John, 6th Earl of Exeter, when a Child, pulling Fortune by the Hair, Pietro Liberi (1605-1687).

Oil on canvas, in a carved and gilded frame, 92.5cm by 108cm.

This painting was commissioned by John, 5th Earl of Exeter (1648-1700), on the occasion that his son and heir, then styled Lord Burghley, accompanied him on the Grand Tour.

It appears in the 1688 Burghley Inventory: ‘My Ladyes Dressing Roome….3 pictures over the doores, Ld Burghley pulling fortune, prudence and fortune and one embracing fortune by SigN(no)r Librei.’

The early years of the Paduan-born Liberi’s life were extremely adventurous, including his capture and subsequent bondage at the hands of Tunisian pirates and a period fighting the Saracens as a mercenary for the Duke of Tuscany.

Once painting became his main focus, he was active mainly in Venice and the Veneto, working extensively for the Doge Francesco Molino, who knighted him in 1662.

Liberi became the first President of the Academy of Painters in Venice and was one of the principal artists patronised by the 5th Earl whilst on the Grand Tour.


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