ca. 1770 (estimate based on coiffure, as noted) Caroline, 4th Duchess of Marlborough by Thomas Gainsborough (private collection)
Her article in thepeerage is here.
Philip Mould has this about her: "Lady Caroline Russell was the daughter of John, 4th Duke of Bedford, an eminent politician and his second wife Gertrude. From an early age Caroline showed a love of music, literature and art, and was privately taught by various eminent tutors. In 1758, at the age of fifteen she was presented at Court to the Prince of Wales, who commented on her attractive looks and engaging smile. Three years later she was again active in the Court as one of the bridesmaids to Queen Charlotte at her wedding of 1761 and she was also in attendance at the Coronation.
In 1762 she was betrothed to her cousin George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough. Her brother wrote to a friend with news of Caroline''s marriage:
'I am most extremely happy at my sister's match. Her affections were so strongly fixed that I should have dreaded to have seen her married to another. As for him, I may answer that the fellow is so good and his love and partiality for my sister so strong that I foresee a most happy prospect for them both. In my life I never saw two people so happy in each other.'
Gainsborough captures in this pastel portrait the beauty for which she renowned and a distinct sweetness of disposition, which was so much part of her character. A letter she wrote to her father shortly after her marriage to the Duke of Marlborough in 1762, touched him so much that it was one of the few personal letters he could never bring himself to throw away. In it she wrote:
'I won''t say how strongly I feel your absence. It is only putting us both in mind of disagreeable things. But I will flatter myself with the hopes of visiting you at Paris, and please myself with that thought. You have always been too good to me all my life for me not to feel always something wanting to my happiness when I am not with you and Mama.'
Caroline as the Duchess of Marlborough devoted herself to her husband and Blenheim Palace. Their marriage was by all accounts an extremely happy one and she bore him three sons and five daughters. Horace Walpole records entertaining the Duke and Duchess at Strawberry Hill in June 1784 and describes them as inseparable.
Gainsborough drew only seven recorded pastel portraits during his career, all of which were executed during his period in Bath and amongst these, the portrait of Caroline is unique in being a half-length rather than the more normal head and shoulders in a feigned oval. Her hair style indicates a date of between 1767-72, which would make the Duchess in her mid-twenties. She is depicted wearing a blue and white dress with a lace shawl, seated in an interior, lost in thought with an open book in her lap. The grey curtain behind her chair is brought to life with pink highlights and the background is strongly hatched to give a sense of the space within the room, while in parts of the face orange-brown hatching is used to softly animate the flesh tints. It is executed on coarse grey paper, with the aim of creating a richness in texture to enhance the subtlety of the delicate colouring. This produces the effect of a slight muzziness which Gainsborough believed, all Chalk Drawings of portraits must (have) so small and the Chalk so soft..."