Elizabeth Churchill was the third daughter and co-heiress of the great English general John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. She married Scroope Egerton 4th Earl of Bridgewater in February 1703.
“Scroop held various high offices at Court in successive reigns; and ‘in consideration of his great merits’ was created in 1720 Duke of Bridgewater. He and his ‘great merits’ are well nigh forgotten, but the memory of his first Duchess still faintly survives, embalmed in the verse of Pope. Jervas, Pope’s friend and teacher in the pictorial art, had painted portraits of this once-famous beauty; and the little bard himself had made various sketches of her, all of which he threw into the fire. Hence several allusions to her in ‘the Epistle to Mr Jervas’ in whose pictures, according to Pope, ‘Beauty, waking all her forms, supplies An angel’s sweetness, or Bridgewater’s eyes’…and…’Churchill’s race shall other hearts surprise.” More on Elizabeth Churchill
Charles Jervas (1675-1739) claimed to be in love with the beautiful Churchill heiress who became his muse and inspiration for many portrait commissions. Taken with her overall beauty, he proceeded to use this as a template for his other portraits, where reality and individual likeness was of secondary importance to a preconceived idea of what constituted an elegant composition and beautiful countenance. Thus Lady Bridgewater’s features can be seen throughout many of his client’s portraits at this time.
This small full-length probably records a lost portrait on the scale of life. Certainly other portraits by Jervas exist which follow this composition but reduced to half or three-quarter length formats. The survival of this copy allows us to appreciate the elegance of the original composition and for the first time shows the noble greyhound at the Countess’s feet.
Don Quixote, 1675 – 1739, came from Ireland in about 1694 and studied painting under Sir Godfrey Kneller. Following a visit to Rome to learn drawing by copying antiques. His home, which he gradually filled with an art collection, became a rendezvous for literary friends: Addison, Swift and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. More on Charles Jervas
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