The drawing was made in 1847 when Millais, aged seventeen, was staying with his Jersey friends the Lemprières at Ewell in Surrey. In later life Arthur Lemprière contributed reminiscences of Millais as a boy to J.G. Millais' Life of his father, including a description of a drawing, now in a private collection, which relates to the present study: 'It was in 1847 that I remember his drawing all the Lemprière family at Ewell standing round a table in the drawing-room, watching eagerly a Twelfth-cake being cut by my eldest sister. It was all so cleverly grouped, and included my father and mother, my five brothers, seven sisters, myself, and himself. It was a picture we all greatly valued, as, in addition to the clever grouping, the likenesses were so excellent' (J.G. Millais, Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais, London, 1899, I, p. 32).
As the writer of the inscription on the backboard observed, Arthur Lemprière was later to be the model for the hero of Millais' painting A Huguenot (Makins Collection), exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1852. He was still only fifteen or sixteen when the sittings took place (see The Pre-Raphaelites, exh. Tate Gallery, London, 1984, cat. no. 41).