This charming double portrait was commissioned by Sir Thomas Sherlock Gooch, 5th Bt., M.P., of Benacre Hall, Suffolk (1767-1856). In May 1796, Gooch married Marianne, daughter of Abraham Whittaker, of Lyston House, Hereford, sister of Charlotte Maria, Countess of Stradbroke (1769-1856). This portrait shows their eldest daughters, Marianne Anna Maria and Charlotte Matilda. Marianne Anna Maria married Andrew Lawson, of Aldborough Manor, Yorkshire, on 1 February 1823, and had nine children. She died on 5 November 1855. Her younger sister, Charlotte Matilda, married the Reverend Stephen Clissold, Rector of Wrentham, Suffolk, on 17 June 1824, she died on 16 August 1852.
The estate at Benacre, on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, was first purchased by the sitters' great-grandfather, Sir Thomas Gooch, 3rd Bt. (1720-c.1781), who set about transforming the house into a spectacular Palladian villa under the architect Matthew Brettingham (1725-1803). The portrait hung at Benacre Hall until 2000.
Harlow, born in St. James's Street, London, studied with the landscape painter, Henry de Cort (1742-1810) until the age of fifteen. Although Harlow was one of Lawrence's most able pupils, Lawrence did not give him any formal instruction, allowing him instead to copy and occasionally assist. Harlow fell out with Lawrence after eighteen months and left his studio, but continued to find success as a portrait artist. His first exhibit at the Royal Academy, London, in 1804, was of a portrait Dr Thornton (untraced), and was followed by numerous commissions and further exhibits. Among the prominent figures that he portrayed were the President of the Royal Academy, Benjamin West (1738-1820), James Northcote (1746-1831), Sir William Beechey (1753-1839), John Philip Kemble (1757-1823) and Sarah Siddons (1755-1831).
This double portrait was painted when the artist was at the height of his powers, before he left for Italy in 1818. He was well received in Rome and was elected a member of the Florentine Academy. On his return voyage, he became ill and died in his rooms in London.