|I am grateful to Caroline Pegum, who is compiling the catalogue of Jervas’s works to include this painting, for her views on this portrait.
This small full-length, like that of the Countess of Bridgewater (Stock 0779), probably records a lost portrait on the scale of life of Henrietta, 2nd Duchess of Marlborough. Certainly other portraits exist which compare favourably with this and it would make sense as a pendant to the other portrait of her sister. The survival of this copy allows us to appreciate the elegance of the original composition as conceived by Charles Jervas (1675-1739) and note the skill of the painter who has captured the fine detailing of silk and skin.
Produced by the same artist these two reduced scale portraits were probably completed as a record for perhaps another relative or admirer of the sitter. Such was the fame of these ladies, being the heiresses of England’s most important and celebrated military commander, their images would have been desired by a wider public other than the family.
Henrietta Churchill was the eldest daughter and heiress of the great English general John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. She married Francis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin in March 1698. An act of Parliament in 1706 allowed the 1st Duke’s daughters to inherit his English titles and thus, following his death in 1722, Lady Godolphin became suo jure Duchess of Marlborough. She was a lady of the bedchamber under Queen Anne and scandalously embarked on an affair with the dramatist William Congreve which resulted in an illegitimate daughter. Despite this her relationship with her husband seemed amicable. However, she had a strained relationship with her mother, Sarah, and died before any form of reconciliation was possible, her mother commenting “She had many good things in her, with some oddness”, but she was “a cruel daughter and mother”, a statement which equally could have been made by Henrietta to her own mother.