Isabella Stanhope, daughter of the Earl of Harrington, married Viscount Molyneux of Croxteth Hall in November 1768. Soon afterwards the couple went to Bath, where the Viscountess sat for the city’s great painter of fashionable society. Gainsborough had just been elected to the newly founded Royal Academy in London, and in this portrait he seeks to impress a London audience. The scale and placement of the figure conveys her elegance and even a touch of preciosity. Gainsborough has lavished his skill on the textures of the dress and the finely observed and superbly modelled hands. There is, beneath the virtuosity, an element of care and fastidiousness which sets this work apart in Gainsborough’s society portraiture.