This picture would appear to be one of the sixty-six works Hone exhibited at his inaugural one-man show in 1775; described in the catalogue as A Lady with a Lyre and accompanied by a quote from Horace's Ode to Calliope. The scene in the background would appear to be a reference to the olive groves of Parnassus where Horace describes wandering in search of poetic inspiration.
Nathaniel Hone, who was born in Dublin, had certainly moved to England by 1742 when he married Mary Earle in York, establishing himself in London soon after. He built up a fashionable portrait practice, and was one of two Irish founder members of the Royal Academy in 1768, along with George Barret. His great rival was Sir Joshua Reynolds whose theory and method he famously satirised in The Conjuror, Displaying the Whole Art of Optical Deception (Dublin, National Gallery). When this controversial picture was rejected at the Academy in 1775, Hone withdrew everything from the exhibition (bar one picture, the Sparton Boy), and arranged the private show in St. Martin's Lane which included the present picture (no. 51).
We are grateful to William Laffan for his assistance with this catalogue entry.