Michael Dahl, Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax (1661–1715)

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax (1661–1715)
The Belisarius Room
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 125 cm, Overall width: 100 cm
Michael Dahl (1659-1743)
Catalogue Number
  • Inscribed bottom right: ‘EARL OF HALIFAX’


Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax (1661–1715), the son of the Honourable George Montagu, was one of the lords of the Whig Junto. In about 1688 he married Anne (d.1698) daughter of Sir Christopher Yelverton, 1st Baronet of Easton Maudit, Northamptonshire, and the widow of the 3rd Earl of Manchester. Montagu was a Whig MP for Maldon (1689 and 1690) and Westminster (1695 and 1698–1700). He was also a financier and held appointments as lord of the Treasury (1692–4), chancellor of the Exchequer (1694–9) and lord treasurer (1697–9, 1714–death). During this time, he started the Bank of England (1694) and initiated the National Debt. A respected scholar, patron and collector, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1695 and president in 1695–8. He was created Baron Halifax in 1700 and Earl of Halifax in 1714, and died the year after. 

Here Montagu wears fashionable attire similar to that worn by Charles and Roger Townshend in their portraits by Dahl in the Raynham collection (RN7 and RN61), which suggests that it may have been painted around the same date. The likeness certainly appears older than that in Kneller’s earliest portraits of Montagu of about 1690–5 (National Portrait Gallery, NPG 800), 1693 (Trinity College, Cambridge, TC Oils P 122) and 1699 (Trinity College, Cambridge, TC Oils P 121). Indeed, it is closer to Montagu’s Kit-cat Club portrait by Kneller of c.1700–10 (National Portrait Gallery, NPG 3211), another version of which is in the Bank of England Museum.

The likeness and frontal pose of this three-quarter portrait of Montagu in a plain coat is identical to that of a full-length portrait by Dahl that shows the Earl in the robes, hat and insignia of the Garter (sold Bonhams, London, 6 July 2005 [19]). This implies that the current portrait type was augmented on the occasion of Montagu being created a knight of the Garter in 1714, the year before his death. That the full-length Garter portrait post-dated the three-quarter-length Raynham portrait is further confirmed by several variants of the latter, one of which has drapery corresponding closely to that in the present portrait (Government Art Collection, GAC 58), and others displaying the addition of the Garter sash and jewel (Royal Society, RA.9614, and Bank of England Museum, 0479 [iv]). Moreover, the portraits featuring the Garter robes and jewel depict Montagu with a light grey wig, not the dark wig worn in the other portraits.

by Emily Burns


Paul Mellon Centre Archive, Oliver Millar, 'Notes on a Visit to Raynham Hall', ONM/1/22, 8 April 1995, p. 23

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