Exceptional in West's work in terms of size and medium, this life study dates from a period of stylistic experimentation. West's fellow American painter, John Singleton Copley, had arrived in England in 1775 after a year's study in Italy; he already had a reputation as a portrait painter in his native Boston. Exact contemporaries and initially very close to one another, West and Copley gradually became rivals as they competed for commissions both for history paintings and for portraits of the Royal Family. West's adoption of black and white chalks on blue paper, both in the present drawing and in other lots in this sale, seems a direct response to Copley's method of working. Such a style is characteristic of the late 1770s and early 1780s.
It has not been possible to trace the present drawing in the 1979 Sotheby's sale, but it is probable that this drawing was also part of this group.