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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 | RCIN 402803

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John Lacy was a comic actor and dramatist, and a particular favourite of Charles II. He became a star performer at the Theatre Royal in London. Contemporary satires alleged that Lacy had a relationship with the King's mistress, Nell Gwyn, to whom he certainly gave acting and dancing lessons. Born near Doncaster, he is recorded on the London stage in 1631 and was apprenticed to the dancing-master John Ogilby. 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. Here he is depicted in three of his most celebrated roles: the lead from Sauny the Scot: or The Taming of The Shrew (his own adaptation from Shakespeare performed at the Theatre Royal in 1667); Monsieur Device from The Country Chaplain (by the Duke of Newcastle); and Scruple from The Cheats (by John Wilson).