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18th Century Head Study Of A Lady And Head Study Of A Gentleman By Michael Dahl 1659-1743 (PAIR)

"18th Century Head Study Of A Lady And Head Study Of A Gentleman By Michael Dahl 1659-1743 (PAIR)"
Fine 18th century portrait head of a lady by Michael Dahl (1659-1743) Charcoal and and white chalk on blue paper.
Born in Sweden in 1659 Michael Dahl first visited England in1682 to assess patronage opportunities created by the death of Sir Peter Lely. After several years of travel in France and Italy he finally settled in London in 1689 where he worked in the studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller and developed a portrait style influenced by his master. In fact Dahl soon became Kneller's chief rival and gained the patronage of Prince George of Denmark and his wife Princess Anne. His studio practice boomed and he appears to have become the favoured portraitist in London at the time.
Dahl seems to have adopted from Kneller the practice of making head studies in order to fix the likeness of a sitter for their final portrait., and both artists produced these drawings in chalks on blue or grey paper. Until 1973 no drawings were firmly attributed to Dahl but an article in "Master Drawings" by J. Douglas Stewart argued that certain sketches previously thought to be by Kneller were actually part of a larger group he attributed to Dahl himself. This has enabled a body of work to emerge and made it possible to attribute a number of other similar studies to Dahl, including the softly toned drawings of a gentleman and a lady presented here.
Kneller’s drawings have more dramatic contrasts of light and shade, the execution is often more schematic and there is a bolder line with a tendency to long, baroque curves in defining the sitter’s hair. Dahl's draftsmanship is more restrained and carefully executed and the modelling of both the works seen here is achieved with short hatching strokes and areas of softer denser shading with highlights in white chalk, and characterisation, which distinguish them from drawings by Sir Godfrey Kneller. Stewart captures the essential quality of Dahl’s drawings: ‘It is interesting to note how similar Dahl’s drawing style is to that of his paintings, e.g. the powdery tone and the modelling with short strokes.’ (1) It has also been noted that Dahl generally ‘shaded the edges of mouths, added strong highlights to noses and paid attention to the structure of nostrils’ (2.) all elements found in the present work.
This male head study compares with drawings such as Dahl’s study of Christopher Lethieullier, (Black and white chalk on blue paper, 430 x 324 mm, Courtauld Gallery, London) preparatory for the portrait at Uppark.
The woman’s portrait is more sparely drawn, but it is clear that we are again looking at a head study by Dahl. It compares well with the handling and features particularly the treatment of the eyes in Dahl’s drawing of a gentleman, (Black and white chalk on blue paper, 330 x 240mm, Lowell Libson and Jonny Yarker Ltd.) In fact this portrait resembles very many of Dahl’s female sitters. His portrait called Sarah Duchess of Marlbrough is typical, with same angle to the head and cool hooded gaze that Dahl employs.
Despite the fact that drawings such as these were an important part of Dahl’s working process, few survive and they remain rare in comparison with the volume of his painted portraits.
Finely executed with a delicate touch of white chalk to highlight the essential form of their faces these engaging sketches are interesting additions to the known works on paper by Dahl.
MICHAEL DAHL 1659–1743 Portrait of a Gentleman Charcoal and white chalk on grey paper 13.75× 9.74 inches 330 × 240 mm Drawn c. 1725–35
MICHAEL DAHL 1659-1743 Portrait of a Lady Charcoal and white chalk on blue paper
Price: €18450 (the pair) see other
I am most grateful to David H Solkin. FBA, Malcolm A. Rogers CBE and James Innes - Mulraine for their invaluable assistance in cataloguing these drawings.
1. J. Douglas Stewart, Sir Godfrey Kneller, Exhibition catalogue, National Portrait Gallery, London, 1971, p.44
2. The Metropolitan Museum NYC commentary on asccession number: 2021.375.1
Price : $18,450
Period: 18th century
Style: Other Style
Material : Paper
Condition : Very good condition
Width : 24cm
Height : 33cm
Depth : 1cm

Reference : 1300
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