Pastel on buff paper; 9 by 7 in; 23 x 18 cm; held in period style stained wood frame
Provenance: Private Collection, England
This engaging portrait, dating to the latter part of the 17th century, clearly belongs to the oeuvre of those artists deeply influenced by the work of Sir Peter Lely. The likes of Henry Tilson (1659-1695), Edward Gibson (1657-1701) and T. Thrumpton (fl.1663-1672) are all known to have executed pastels of a similar kind and no doubt more works by other recognised portrait painters of the period will eventually surface in time. Without a greater body of such comparative material this particular portrait, for the moment, must remain an unattributed work. Nevertheless, such a status in no way detracts from the overall quality or beauty of the image; the strong modelling, particularly around the face, refined use of colour and engaging countenance make it a tender study and an accomplished work.
Rather than a sketch it seems clearly intended as a finished piece and not preliminary to an oil portrait. With this in mind it would appear to have been executed as a presentation drawing, a completed work in its own right, either as a gift for the sitter or his family or as a commissioned work. Too little is known of the various functions of drawings by the oil portraitists in this period, unless the piece is an obvious preparatory work for a painting, but it seems apparent that the production of such finished drawings may have been an important aspect of their commercial output.
This portrait compares favourably with a similar pastel of a girl which was on the art market over thirty years ago and was then believed to be by Michael Dahl (Sotheby’s 19th March 1981 – Heinz archive National Portrait Gallery). So strong are the similarities that both pastels are almost certainly by the same artist, though the attribution to Dahl is no longer tenable.
With thanks to the art historian Neil Jeffares for his views concerning this work