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Early 19th century portrait miniature of George Spencer Churchill, 5th Duke of Marlborough (Marquess of Blandford) 1766-1840, painted on ivory

£ 5,700

Artist: Richard Cosway

The British miniaturist Cosway depicts George, 5th Duke of Marlborough wearing historical fancy dress consisting of armour under a red cloak fastened with a buckle on the shoulder

Lord Blandford represented Oxfordshire in parliament as a Whig between 1790 and 1796 and Tregony as a Tory between 1802 and 1806. From 1804 to 1806 he served under William Pitt the Younger as a Lord of the Treasury. The latter year he was summoned to the House of Lords through a writ of acceleration in his father's barony of Spencer of Wormleighton. He became famous for his extravagant collecting of antiquities, especially books. He was invested as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (FSA) on 8 December 1803.

Although the Marquess was born and baptised with the name of George Spencer, soon after succeeding to the Dukedom of Marlborough, he had it legally changed on 26 May 1817 to George Spencer-Churchill. This illustrious name did not, however, save him from his mounting debts and his estates were seized and his collections sold. He retired to Blenheim Palace where he lived the remainder of his life off a small annuity granted to the first Duke by Queen Anne.

George served as Lord of the Treasury to King George III. Matilda Glover, a local girl, became his mistress in 1817, causing the resident Duchess to leave Blenheim Palace. Matilda then assumed the position moving into the Palace and bearing the duke three children. Marlborough was one of Cosway's most important patrons. His full size portrait of the Duke, 1797 was exhibited in Richard and Maria Cosway, Regency Artists of Taste and Fashion as the Scottish NPG, Edinburgh 1995-1996. Dr. Lloyd curator of that exhibition dates this portrait to the start of the Duke's affiar with Glover and believes it to probably to be the last miniature to be painted by Cosway

Cosway often used the hexagonal format in his later works, as he also used soft brown and grey tones, as depicted here, which marked a move away from the Antwerp blue sky backgrounds found in his miniatures at the end of the 18th century.
More Information
Year                 Circa 1817.
Medium                 watercolour on ivory.
Provenance                 The Marshall Papers, Miss Sarah Marshall Bernstein, a direct descendent of the Duke and Matilda Glover
Literature                 Soames, The Profligate Duke: George Spencer Churchill, Fifth Duke of Marlborough and his Duchess, London, 1987 illustrated in colour no. 65
Exhibition                 University of California, Berkley August/December 2002
Condition                 Restoration noted on frame
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