As first President of the Royal Academy in London, Reynolds played a key role in raising the status of art and of artists in Britain in the second half of the 18th century. He is heralded for having transformed portraiture into an art form which had all the ambition, depth and vitality of history painting, while also conveying the psychology of the sitter. His famous Discourses on Art, which were delivered as lectures to students and members of the Academy between 1769 and 1790, had an enduring influence on art theory and criticism in Britain. Based on hairstyle and dress, the present portrait can be dated to circa 1774. From the 1770s onwards, Reynolds’ exhibition submissions became increasingly dominated by female portraiture, which ‘crafted a new imagery of the aristocratic beauty’ (M. Hallett, ‘Pall Mall Pastoral’, Reynolds: Portraiture in Action, New Haven and London, 2014, p. 253). Between 1773 and 1779, he exhibited 15 full-length female portraits, far more than any other kind of picture. Some of these were later engraved in mezzotint by Valentine Green and published in a series of ‘Beauties of the present age’, an open homage to the earlier series of ‘Beauties’ by Sir Peter Lely and Sir Godfrey Kneller in the Royal Collection (Hampton Court). This very public exposure and promotion of his art, at the Academy’s annual exhibitions and in printed form, helped fuel demand among the upper echelons of society, who scrambled to have their portraits painted by him.