Mary Fanshawe, née Coke, was one of seven children and the eldest daughter of Colonel John Coke MP (1655-1692) and his wife Mary Leventhorpe. Her father was a keen supporter of William III in the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688. Mary's brother Thomas Coke (1674-1727) became Vice-Chamberlain to Queen Anne and was a great patron of Michael Dahl. It was probably as a result of this patronage that Mary sat to Dahl, who also painted a portrait of her second son John Fanshawe (1697-1763) later Professor of Divinity at Oxford and Canon of Christ Church, Oxford. There are two other versions of this portrait: one version was in a private collection in Essex and the other is in Melbourne Hall in Derbyshire, once the home of Colonel John Coke and now of Sir Ralph and Lady Kerr. The sitter also appears as a child in a family group portrait of the children of Colonel Coke by Jacob Huysmans, likewise at
Portraitist Michael Dahl was born in Stockholm. He studied under M. Hannibal and D. K. Ehrenstrahl before moving to England in 1682. In 1684 he visited Paris with Henry Tilson, possibly accompanying Godfrey Kneller. Dahl and Tilson travelled on to Rome. After converting to Catholicism, Dahl was able to paint Queen Kristina. He also painted Pietro Garoli of the Accademia di S. Luca. Dahl and Tilson returned in 1689 and Dahl was patronised by Prince George of Denmark and the Duke of Somerset. Queen Anne later commissioned he and Kneller to paint 14 portraits of Admirals, although Kneller alone remained Principal Painter. Dahl painted an equestrian portrait of Prince George for Windsor and portraits of Tories for the Queen. He died aged 84.
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