|Title||Portrait of Sir Robert Walpole|
|Collection||Wakefield Art Gallery|
|Artist|| Dahl, Michael (Swedish painter, born 1656 or 1659, died 1743, active in England)
Previously attributed to Kneller, Godfrey (English painter, 1646-1723)
|Date Earliest||probably about 1682|
|Description||The subject of this painting is Sir Robert Walpole who was Britain's first Prime Minister; he is seen here wearing his peer's robes of scarlet and ermine, a powdered wig and the insignia of a Knight of the Garter which was presented to him by George II. Walpole was the first ‘commoner' to be awarded the Garter for many years and he was apparently inordinately proud of it, directing that the insignia be carved, painted and plastered all over his newly built home at Houghton Hall in Norfolk. Dahl's delicate handling and the soft, greyish powdered tone of the work, strikes a chord of honesty and humanity.|
|Current Accession Number||A1.172|
|Inscription||front ul 'Sir Robert Walpol Earl of Orford Dahl Pinxt'|
|Subject||portrait (Sir Robert Walpole)|
|Measurements||127.5 x 102.3 cm cm (estimate)|
|Material||oil on canvas|
|Acquisition Details||Given by Wakefield Permanent Art Fund (Friends of Wakefield Art Gallery and Museums) 1934.|
After travelling throughout Europe, Dahl settled in London in 1689 'where he had a long and successful career. His style is softer than Kneller's, warmer and less forced but perhaps with less character.' (Murray, P. & L.Dictionary of Art and Artists, London, 1997). Sir Godfrey Kneller was the most important English painter of the period, and Dahl was considered to be his only true rival. They mixed in the same social circles and inevitably painted the same people. Dahl even shared commissions with Kneller, such as the important series of portraits of Admirals commissioned by queen Anne and Prince George in 1702. After the Queen's death he found an even more devoted patron in Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford, who helped establish Dahl as the most popular portrait painter in England after the death of Kneller in 1723.
In the nineteenth century Dahl's name was removed from this painting and replaced by Kneller's. Although we may never know the original reason for this change of attribution it may be due to the fact Kneller's portraits were much sought after in this period. Until it underwent extensive cleaning and restoration work in May 1989 the painting was believed to be by Godfrey Kneller. 'After surface cleaning and varnish removal it was discovered that in some areas the painting had been overpainted. The overpaint covered several areas of abrasion in the shadowed areas, reinforcing the folds in the drapery in the background and extending the outer edge of the painting by approximately half an inch on all sides. However, most interestingly of all, it was discovered that the name of the original artist, Michael Dahl, had also been covered. Dahl's name was painted thinly under the title of the painting in the top left hand corner. The paint used in the title was also of the same consistency as that of the newly discovered name of the artist. In comparison the ‘Godfrey Kneller' signature, which was located to the bottom left hand corner of the painting, was painted in a pigment similar in consistency to the soluble overpaint present elsewhere. It could be concluded, therefore, that the Kneller signature was not the original and it was decided to have it removed.' (Treatment Report in Wakefield City Art Gallery archives).
|Rights Owner||Wakefield Art Gallery|