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John Michael Wright (1617-94)

John Lacy (d. 1681) c. 1668-70

Oil on canvas | 233.4 x 173.4 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external) | RCIN 402803

King's Dining Room, Windsor Castle

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  • The comic actor and playwright, John Lacy (c.1615–81), star performer at the Theatre Royal in the 1660s, was a particular favourite of the king. Born near Doncaster, he was apprenticed to the dancing master, John Ogilby, in 1631 and soon appeared on the London stage. A Royalist lieutenant and quartermaster during the Civil War, Lacy was a founder member of the King's Company at the Theatre Royal, which had been established by the playwright and theatre manager, Thomas Killigrew, in 1660. Like other early Restoration actors, he appears to have played some female parts, despite the advent of professional women performers, taking the lead in The French Dancing Mistress in 1662. Samuel Pepys, the diarist, was a great fan and remarked of another production 'The play is pretty good, but the life of the play is Lacy's part, the Clowne'. Lacy adapted old and foreign comedies and wrote new ones and was renowned for his dialect-based performances.Contemporary satires alleged that Lacy had a relationship with the king's mistress, Nell Gwyn, to whom he certainly gave acting and dancing lessons.

    Painted for Charles II, John Michael Wright's unusual triple portrait shows Lacy in three of his most celebrated roles. On the left he is the lead in Sauny the Scott, or, the Taming of the Shrew, Lacy's own adaptation of Shakespeare, in which he appeared in 1667. In the centre he is shown as Monsieur Device in The Country Chaplain, a play written in 1649 by William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle. On the right, Lacy is in the role of Parson Scruple in The Cheats, by the playwright and lawyer John Wilson.

    Text adapted from Charles II: Art and Power, London, 2017.


    Painted for Charles II and recorded in its current position in the Passage between the King's Dining Room and Drawing Room at Windsor Castle in 1688 (no 804); it has never strayed far from this position, though briefly hanging in the Queen's State Bedchamber at Windsor, where it appears in Pyne's illustrated Royal Residences of 1819 (RCIN 922103).

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas


    233.4 x 173.4 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external)

    256.0 x 194.5 x 9.5 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    John Lacy, Comedian, in Three Characters

    John Lacy as 'Sauncy', 'Monsieur Device' and 'scruple'.