Details about Downman's life are scarce, however it seems probable that the artist married twice. The identity and fate of his first wife remain obscure, but it is possible that she married Downman before they left for Italy in 1773 and had died by 1804. G.C. Williamson, John Downman, A.R.A., London, 1907, pp. xxii suggests that his second wife was the daughter of William Jackson, organist of Exeter Cathedral. A sketch in the British Museum, see Williamson op.cit. p. 60 inscribed 'Mother Eliz. Downman' possibly in the hand of Isabella the artist's daughter, bears a striking resemblance to the sitter in the present watercolour.