Thomas Gainsborough was Sir Joshua Reynolds's greatest rival at the Royal Academy, favouring detail and variety over the 'general form' promoted by Reynolds and other exponents of the Grand Style. Vibrant colour harmonies and virtuoso brushwork characterise his work. These features invest his carefully observed landscapes and portraits with a distinctive freshness and vigour.
Sophia Boldero (1760-1827) was the daughter of the London banker John Boldero (1712-1789). In 1784 she married the merchant Thomas Hibbert (1744-1819). Soon after their marriage, Gainsborough painted portraits of the couple, but they divorced as early as 1796. It is remarkable that after the separation each of the two kept the portrait of the other.