studio of Michael Dahl, Unknown Lady

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
Unknown Lady
The Duke of York Room
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 73 cm, Overall width: 63 cm
studio of Michael Dahl (1659-1743)
Catalogue Number


The artist responsible for the present portrait was identified by Duleep Singh as Sir Godfrey Kneller. It is, however, from the studio of Michael Dahl. The sitter has been identified as Queen Mary II (1662–1694) while Princess of Orange. Yet, while there is something of Mary’s likeness, the portrait lacks the quality of a commissioned Royal portrait and there are no details to signify a royal sitter, as found in other portraits of Mary while she was a princess, such as that by Wissing in the Royal Collection (RCIN 405643). Dahl, who was Swedish by birth, was active in England from 1682, but is not known to have worked for William and Mary. He was, however, patronised by Prince George of Denmark and Mary’s sister, Princess Anne, who became Queen in 1702.

The format and costume of this present portrait can be dated to the 1690s. An almost identical template for the present work was used by Dahl for a portrait, possibly of Dorothy Yard (d. 1723), Mrs Alexander Luttrell, in the National Trust collection at Dunster Castle, Somerset (NT 726082). Similarly presented as a bust in a painted oval, the Dunster portrait features the same falling ruffle of the sitter’s undergarment, a similar pinkish satin dress fixed with bejewelled pins and soft hair piled high on the head with locks tumbling down behind the swathe of fluttering blue drapery. Other portraits by Dahl dated to the 1690s show a similar formula, for example of Eleanor Brownlow at Belton House, Lincolnshire (NT 435952). This further dispels the chance of the portrait being a likeness of Mary, who by that stage was not so young, was no longer a princess and who died in 1694.

by Emily Burns


Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, ed. Rev. Edmund Farrer, vol. 2, Norwich : Jarrold and Sons, 1928, vol. 2, p. 234, no. 58 (‘LADY’)

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