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John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford

7 of 262 portraits by Thomas Gainsborough

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford

by Thomas Gainsborough
circa 1770
29 1/2 in. x 24 1/2 in. (749 mm x 622 mm)
NPG 755

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed lower left: John/Duke of Bedford and T Gainsborough.

This portraitback to top

The Duke had been a particular patron of Gainsborough from 1755 when he commissioned two landscapes for Woburn. NPG 755 was painted near the end of the Duke’s life, when his eyesight was troublesome and his health poor (he suffered a paralytic stroke in the spring of 1770) [1] and his drawn features are in marked contrast to those in the Gainsborough heads of 1764 and 1768. [2]
The execution was much praised by Passavant and Waagen, [3] and Scharf made a particular study of it in 1875 [4] before acquiring it in 1886. A version, probably by Gainsborough Dupont, is in the J. P. Speed Museum, Louisville Ky. [5] An unidentified portrait of the Duke of Bedford which had remained in Gainsborough’s studio was in the Dupont sale in 1797, and later at Cassiobury. [6]

Footnotesback to top

1) See Wal. Corr., XXXVI, p 58, and XXIII, p 262.
2) See J. Hayes, Connoisseur, CLXVII, 1968, p 223.
3) J. D. Passavant, Kunstreise durch England und Belgien, 1833, p 178; G. F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, 1854, III, p 130 (‘superior to many of the portraits by this master in faithful and careful execution’).
4) Sir George Scharf's Sketch Books, 92/68.
5) Descended from Edward Bray (d. 1816); Whitwell Hall sale, Hollis & Webb, 17 April 1950, lot 194.
6) Christie’s, 10 April 1797, lot 31, bought Lord Malden (5th Earl of Essex); listed by G. P. Harding, List of Portraits in Various Mansions of the United Kingdom, II, p 215, at Cassiobury.

Physical descriptionback to top

Pale blue-grey eyes, grey powdered hair, wearing a scarlet coat and waistcoat with the ribbon and star of the Garter, his black hat under his left arm.

Provenanceback to top

Painted for the sitter’s daughter, Caroline, who married the 3rd Duke of Marlborough; thence by descent; Blenheim sale, Christie’s, 3rd day, 31 July 1886, lot 239, purchased.

Exhibitionsback to top

Second special exhibition of National Portraits (William and Mary to MDCCC), South Kensington,1867 (455); RA 1882 (16); Gainsborough, Grosvenor Gallery, 1885 (38); Beningbrough 1979-80; Gainsborough, Paris, 1981 (36); British Embassy, Paris, 1981-.


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.

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