The sitter was the only daughter of Nathaniel Acton of Bramford Hall, Suffolk. In 1758, on reaching twenty-one, Elizabeth inherited Hemingtone Hall, Suffolk 'in lieu of money left to her in her father's will' ('Hemingstone Hall, Suffolk', Country Life, 3 May 2007, p. 142), and on her marriage a year later to Richard Colvile, of Newton Hall, Cambridgeshire, Hemingstone was part of her dowry. According to the Victoria County History: 'Richard Colvile had always had extravagant tastes, and even his wife's ample fortune did not keep him long out of difficulties' (cited in ibid.); he had to flee to Holland to escape his creditors, but eventually returned to Hemingstone, where he died in 1784.
We are grateful to Hugh Belsey for his thoughts on this painting. While dated to circa 1755-7 by Waterhouse, Belsey suggests a slightly later date of circa 1758.