Mary Edwards (1705–43), one of the richest women of her time, repudiated her marriage to an extravagant husband, although this was tantamount to declaring her son illegitimate. She was Hogarth’s friend and arguably his most significant patron during the decade 1733–43. The monumental portrait of Miss Edwards, wearing magnificent jewels and a striking red dress, is a masterpiece in the series of Hogarth’s commanding middle-class portraits, which includes the famous Captain Coram. The open scroll prominently displayed beside the subject champions the virtues of liberty and property that she would have appreciated as manager of a great fortune.
Source: Art in The Frick Collection: Paintings, Sculpture, Decorative Arts, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996.