Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The pair were painted in 1790 by the artist John Russell (1745- 1806), a foremost pastellist of his day, and have been acquired by the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm for its collection of British art. The pastels were last exhibited together in Paris in 1908 and hung alongside each other at the Royal Academy in 1790.

Countess Spencer, the Duchess of Devonshire’s mother, commissioned the portraits. In a surviving letter between the pair, she wrote: “The Duke is not yet gone my Dearest Georgiana which has given me time to have a little Craion [sic] picture of Georgiana finished by Russal [sic] – it is drawn in the cap she wore while she had her cold & which I thought became her much.”

The museum bought the portrait of Georgiana last year at French auction house Artcurial for €45,500 and purchased the Henrietta portrait from John Mitchell Fine Art in London for £22,000 this year.

The gallery’s William Mitchell said: “After several years of waiting for others to share in our unswerving faith in this flawless and exceptional pastel, a medium still seen as esoteric by too many collectors, this happy outcome is vindication of our conviction that quality will always prevail.”