- Museum number
Portrait of Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford; bust, half-right, with eyes to front, wearing a soft cap and cravat
Black chalk, heightened with white, on blue-grey paper, with all four corners cut
- Production date
- 1659-1743 (?)
Height: 370 millimetres
Width: 259 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This drawing is related to Dahl's half-length portrait of the great collector, Edward, Lord Harley, later 2nd Earl of Oxford (1689-1741), showing him seated at a table with a book and medals, a medal of Queen Anne in his hand. The portrait, still at Welbeck Abbey, was painted before 1719 and was engraved by George Vertue in 1746. The present drawing was long presumed to be drawn by Vertue after Dahl's painting, preparatory to his engraving. But in 1973, the Kneller scholar Douglas Stewart published an article in 'Master Drawings' (vol. XI, pp. 34ff) arguing that this drawing was part of a larger group he attributed to Dahl himself, done from life in preparation for the painting. Kneller, Dahl and later Jonathan Richardson the Elder all made similar life-size studies in chalk on brown or blue paper and the problem of attributions is complicated by the series of similar drawings in the British Museum by George Vertue.
The series of life-size portrait drawings Stewart attributed to Dahl, including the present one, are quite different from the Museum's group of smaller, earlier (1690s) more decorative coloured chalk drawings of young men and women also attributed to Dahl. One of them (O.o.10-178) once belonged to Jonathan Richardson and later to the connoisseur Richard Payne Knight who both described it as by Lely, though the costume is too late for it to be by that artist. The drawings in this group are indeed closer to Lely or Greenhill in spirit - they appear to be more 'finished' drawings, not drawn in preparation for an oil, but as works of art in themselves. The most recently acquired is the one presented in 2002 which came with a doubtful attribution to John Riley. Stewart dismissed their attribution to Dahl (in fn.2 of his article) but did not suggest who they might be by so they remain in the collection under Dahl's name. (KS 2004)
Stainton & White 1987
This drawing is related to the half-length portrait of Lord Harley (now at Welbeck Abbey), seated and holding a medal of Queen Anne, which was painted before 1719 (in which year it was copied in an enamel miniature by Zincke) and engraved by Vertue in 1746. Until recently the drawing was attributed to George Vertue, but Stewart has suggested (op. cit., 1971) that it is an ad vivum study by Dahl in preparation for the painting. The identification of this sheet has made it possible to attribute a number of other similar studies to Dahl, many of which were previously thought to be by Kneller. Both Dahl and, slightly later, Jonathan Richardson the Elder seem to have adopted from Kneller the practice of making such life-size studies of heads as an aid in painting portraits.
Edward Harley, who became the 2nd Earl of Oxford in 1724, was a noted collector; his great library, started by his father and described by Dr Johnson as excelling any offered for sale, was dispersed in 1742, but the celebrated Harleian collection of manuscripts was one of the founding collections of the British Museum in 1753. He was also a patron of contemporary writers, including Pope, Swift and Prior, and of artists and architects such as Rysbrack, Gibbs and Vertue. Dahl seems to have been his favourite portrait painter, as Vertue noted in 1737: "My good Lord Oxford, has at heart the promoteing of. . . Mr Dhal [sic] for face painting" (III, p. 79), and in the sale of parts of Lord Oxford's collection after his death there were eighteen portraits by Dahl.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1987 June-Aug, BM Hilliard to Hogarth no.165
1987 Sept-Nov, New Haven, Hilliard to Hogarth
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number