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Portrait miniature - Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough
  • Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough
    Lens, Bernard III, born 1681 - died 1740
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Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough

  • Object:

    Portrait miniature

  • Place of origin:

    London (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1720 (dated)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Lens, Bernard III, born 1681 - died 1740 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on vellum

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John Jones

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 54a, case 2

Object Type
The word 'miniature' describes the technique of working in watercolour on vellum (a fine kind of parchment made from the skins of lamb or kid) rather than the size of the painting.

This is a portrait of Sarah Churchill (1660-1744), née Jennings, who married John Churchill (1650-1722) in 1678. Churchill, a notable soldier, was raised to the English peerage as Baron Churchill in 1685, and was subsequently created 1st Duke of Marlborough. When Churchill met Sarah Jennings, she was working as an attendant to Princess Anne (1650-1714), the future Queen. The friendship between Sarah and Anne, who nicknamed themselves Mrs Morley and Mrs Freeman, played a crucial part in the fortunes of the Churchills. Churchill had his most famous victory at Blenheim in 1704, two years after Anne ascended the throne. By 1710, however, the Churchills were out of favour with the Queen, due to a quarrel between Anne and Sarah. This portrait, probably a copy of an oil painting, celebrates the Churchill's famous marriage through the inclusion of a miniature of the Duke worn on the Duchess's wrist.

The 19th-century owner of this miniature put it in an ornate gold frame. But Bernard Lens III, the younger (1681-1740), who painted this miniature, was famed for his simple pearwood frames that were stained black (they are still called 'Lens frames'). The present frame on this miniature is a recreation of a Lens frame.

Physical description

Portrait miniature

Place of Origin

London (probably, made)


1720 (dated)


Lens, Bernard III, born 1681 - died 1740 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on vellum

Marks and inscriptions

'her Grace the Dutchess (sic) / of marlbourgh (sic) Bernard Lens Fecit advium (sic) et Londini / Dec ye 31 1720'


Height: 40.5 cm internal measurement of frame, Width: 26 cm internal measurement of frame

Descriptive line

Portrait miniature of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, Bernard Lens III (the younger), London probably, 1720

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Sarah Churchill (1660-1744) was famous for her brilliant conversation and commanding manner. For some years she was the closest friend of Queen Anne (1665-1714). Here the duchess wears on her wrist a portrait miniature of her husband. An intimate portrait like this might have stood on a dressing table in a private chamber. [27/03/2003]


Portraits; Paintings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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