The picture was dated by William Michael Rossetti to 1863, and by Mrs Surtees to '1863 or earlier'. Marillier, who gives two alternative titles, The Dancing Girl or The Daughter of Herodias, is mistaken in dating it 1866, the year it was bought by J.H. Trist. A Brighton wine-merchant, Trist was a loyal patron of the Pre-Raphaelites, particularly Arthur Hughes, whose Silver and Gold, once in the collection, was sold in these Rooms on 25 October 1991, lot 50.
The model was probably Agnes Manetti ('Fatty Aggie'), who sat to Rossetti in the early 1860s. Three portrait drawings are recorded (Surtees 262-4), and she has been associated as a model with a number of other works, including Sweet Tooth (c.1862-4; S. Add 123), Joan of Arc (1863; S. 162) and Monna Pomona (1864; S. 171). According to William Michael Rossetti (who mistakenly called her Jessie), she was a Scotswoman 'of no rigid virtue who had a most energetic as well as beautiful profile, not without some analogy to that of the great Napoleon.' She appears in the diary of G.P. Boyce, to whom she also sat at this date.
The portrayal of violent movement is unusual for Rossetti, but may have been inspired by Aggie's 'energetic' appearance. F.M. Hueffer, writing in 1902, saw the picture as an illustration of his theory that Rossetti was at his best when he was 'content to observe and record', and that even his 'mannerisms were very little at fault.' 'There is, for instance, a head and shoulders of a Dancing Girl of about the year 1863 which is a quite pagan rendering of Bacchic motions. The hands, which are the typical "Rossetti" hands, really hold castanets and use them; the arms, which are the typical "Rossetti" arms, are really in violent movement.' A drawing which is almost certainly a study for the picture is in a private collection (S. 166 A, pl.237).