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Rachel Russell, Duchess of Devonshire (1674-1725)

Michael Dahl (Stockholm 1656/9 – London 1743)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

circa 1696 - 1699

Materials

Oil on canvas

Measurements

1650 x 1550 mm

Place of origin

England

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Collection

Petworth House and Park, West Sussex (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Petworth House and Park, West Sussex, London and South East, National Trust

NT 486212

Caption

This is one of a series of seven portraits by Michael Dahl known as the ‘Petworth Beauties’ painted for Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset (1662-1748) in the late 1690s. These pictures may have been painted in conscious rivalry with Sir Godfrey Kneller’s ‘Hampton Court Beauties’. Dahl was first employed by the Duke in 1696, and superseded Closterman in what amounted to the position of official court painter to the Duke. The quality of the pictures was remarked upon by George Vertue in his ‘Notebooks.’ Rachel Russell, was the daughter of ‘The Patriot’ William Lord Russell (1639-1683). In 1688 she married the 2nd Duke of Devonshire. The 6th Duke of Devonshire says of her: “This lady brought the quality of silence into the family - whether it was natural to her, or assumed from having lived in troublous time, I know not, but silent she was, and obtained great credit from being so”.

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, Rachel Russell, Duchess of Devonshire (1674 – 1725) by Michael Dahl (Stockholm 1656/9 – London 1743), circa 1696. A three-quarter-length portrait of a young woman, standing, full front, her face three-quarters left and wearing an old-gold dress with a blue mantle. Her left arm is on a parapet against a dark background, with a deep green curtain at right. Michael Dahl (c.1659-1743) was born in Stockholm; he was in England in 1682, Paris 1684 and Italy in 1686-1689. He settled in London in 1689 and died there in 1743. He was first employed by the 6th Duke of Somerset (1662-1748) in 1696, superseding Closterman in what amounted to the position of official court painter to the Duke. Rachel Russell, Duchess of Devonshire (1674-1725) was the daughter of William, Lord Russell the Patriot; she married secondly, William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire.

Provenance

Painted for the 6th Duke of Somerset (1662-1748) in the late 1690s thence by descent, until the death in 1952 of the 3rd Lord Leconfield, who had given Petworth to the National Trust in 1947, and whose nephew and heir, John Wyndham, 6th Lord Leconfield and 1st Lord Egremont (1920-72) arranged for the acceptance of the major portion of the collections at Petworth in lieu of death duties (the first ever such arrangement) in 1956 by H.M.Treasury.

Credit line

Petworth House, The Egremont Collection (acquired in lieu of tax by HM Treasury in 1956 and subsequently transferred to the National Trust)

Makers and roles

Michael Dahl (Stockholm 1656/9 – London 1743), artist of original

References

Solkin 2015 David H. Solkin, Art in Britain 1660 - 1815, Pelican History of Art, Yale University Press, 2015, p. 46, fig. 45

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