Lucy Lawrence, Sir Thomas Lawrence's mother, was the younger daughter of the Revd. William Read (1694-1754), Vicar of Tenbury, Worcestershire, and Rector of Rochford, Herefordshire, and his wife Sarah, née Hill, who had married in 1722. Her mother's family had grand connections; her maternal grandfather had built the house Court of Hill, in Shropshire, while her maternal grandmother was Anne Powys, whose brothers were Sir Littleton Powys, Chief Justice of North Wales, and Sir Thomas Powys, who was briefly Solicitor-General. Mrs Papendiek, who was Assistant Keeper of the Wardrobe to Queen Charlotte and got to know Sir Thomas Lawrence when he painted the Queen in 1789 described her as a woman of 'taste and ability, amiable, and well looking both as to figure and face'. Her relationship with Thomas Lawrence, who had little money of his own and no employment, met with the disapproval of her family and when she chose to marry him clandestinely her father, whose favourite she seems to have been, banished her from the family home in Tenbury and her uncle cut her out of his will. Later on, however, her family became reconciled to their union. Thomas and Lucy Lawrence had sixteen children, of which the artist, who was born in Bristol on 13 April 1769, was the fourteenth, but youngest surviving, child. In his catalogue of Lawrence's work Kenneth Garlick commented that the clue to the artist's character 'lay with the ill-assorted but apparently happy union of two antipathetic personalities, the flamboyant, somewhat vulgar, erratic and extravagant father and the genteel, prudent and watchful mother' who 'might easily have found a place in a novel by Jane Austen as the capable and modest wife of a cleryman of limited means' (op.cit., p. 11).
Sir Thomas Lawrence executed this tender portrait of his mother in 1797, at the very end of her life when whe was already ill. She was to die in May that year and a letter he wrote to Miss Lee on the actual day suggests that he had been present. His father was also to die unexpectedly at the end of that year. Michael Levey comparing this portrait with Lawrence's chalk drawing of his father (Irish & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, Stanford, California; op.cit., pl. 16) commented of the present portrait that it is 'far removed in mood from the jaunty assurance of her husband. It is a haunting image, in which the haggard features are still handsome, and the likeness to her youngest child is strong'.
Lawrence's sister Anne married the Revd. Richard Rouse Bloxam, a master at Rugby School, in 1790, and among the artist's early drawings is a portrait of the Bloxam's first child (1797; Levey, op.cit., p. 139, pl. 79). The present portrait, together with a portrait Lawrence executed of his eldest brother the Revd. Andrew Lawrence (1755-1821) in 1790 and a double portrait, in chalk, of the artist's nephews Richard Rowland Bloxam (1797-1877) and Andrew Bloxam (1801-1878), taken on the eve of their departure on a voyage to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii), descended in the Bloxam family.