Frances Duncombe was born in 1757, the only daughter of Anthony Duncombe and Frances Bathurst. Gainsborough’s portrait of her reveals the artist’s admiration for Van Dyck, not only in its elegant proportions, graceful pose, and Arcadian setting, but even in the costume, which recalls fashions of the seventeenth century. It was probably painted while the subject was living with the family of the Earl of Radnor, into which her stepmother married; the Earl commissioned from Gainsborough a number of portraits in the grand style to complement his collection of Old Masters. In 1778 Frances married John Bowater of Woolwich, who suffered various reverses and went to debtors’ prison despite the considerable fortune she brought him. Frances died seventeen years after her husband in 1827.
Source: Art in The Frick Collection: Paintings, Sculpture, Decorative Arts, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996.