An attribution to Nathaniel Dance is supported by comparison to two recorded drawings at the British Museum, London, entitled Portrait of Hester Smith, née Dance (pencil on paper, dated 1769, T08229) and A Girl Seated, in a Flowered Dress (chalk on paper, T08165). All three drawings illustrate the same delicacy and subtlety of detail. The portrait of the artist's sister Hester, pictured sitting reading, is particularly comparable in not only the sitters' elaborate dress and their headpieces, but also the application of pencil around the sitters creating a sense of space.
The cittern is a stringed instrument dating from the Renaissance when it was enjoyed by all classes throughout Europe, and celebrated for its ease of use and richness of sound. The instrument was still popular in the 18th Century and was known as an English guitar.
We are grateful to Dr Kim Sloan of the British Museum and Brian Allen of the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art for their help in preparing this catalogue entry.