The subject of this portrait—Eleanor, Countess of Lauderdale—was a wealthy only child who was known for her kindness and beauty. The commission may have been related to the sitter's marriage to James, the 8th Earl of Lauderdale, in 1782.
Angelica Kauffmann was one of the most prominent and respected female artists of the 18th century. During a three-year stay in Italy, the Swiss-born artist made her reputation as a painter of portraits. While in Rome, Kauffmann mixed with the English community as well as individuals visiting on the Grand Tour. She also became part of the burgeoning circle of artists, architects, archaeologists, and historians who looked to the Greek and Roman empires for inspiration. Having made English connections through the community in Rome, she moved to London in 1766. Kauffmann soon became a respected society portraitist. She joined Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough as an early member of the Royal Academy and became one of only two female founding Academicians.