Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Henrietta Godolphin Duchess of Newcastle (d.1776) 1735c.

Charles Jervas (16751739)

Portrait of Henrietta Godolphin Duchess of Newcastle (d.1776), Charles Jervas
Oil on canvas
18th Century
50 x 40 inches, 127 x 101 cm
Currently on loan to the Palace of Westminster
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Lady Henrietta Godolphin was the daughter and coheir of Francis 2nd Earl of Godolphin by Henrietta suo jure Duchess of Marlborough, daughter of John 1st Duke of Marlborough. She brought her already well-connected husband into a further Whig dynasty, and this association with the foremost political families in the country was of the greatest consequence in enabling Newcastle to remain a figure of consequence in British government until he resigned as Prime Minister in 1762. The Duchess lived to a great age, dying on July 17th 1776. She was buried alongside her husband at Laughton.

Charles Jervas was born in Ireland in 1675. He received his artistic training both in England at Kneller's Academy and at Rome. The style that he cultivated on his return from Italy made him Kneller's natural successor when that artist died in 1723. Jervas made an extensive study of the Old Masters and made numerous copies after them and after artists such as Van Dyck, the vast majority of which remain tantalisingly lost or unrecognised. It became fashionable by the time that Horace Walpole was compiling his Anecdotes of Painting to draw a scathing contrast between this education and the use that Jervas made of it, but in fact although his treatment of the figure folows the convention that his sitters desired, his vivid colour shows a profound and dramatic understanding of the Northern Italian masters. He enjoyed a considerable reputation in his day, and was praised by friends such as Pope. He also had the patronage of many of the great figures of his time. The Duchess of Newcastle was a part of the great Marlborough/ Godolphin/ Sunderland family, all of whom sat to Jervas, as did the Duchess's husband, Thomas Pelham-Holles Duke of Newcastle, who was portrayed by the artist in Garter robes (examples National Portrait Gallery, Private Collection on loan to the Palace of Westminster).
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