The present work became one of Kauffmann's best known images through the print by Ryland, 1779, and is one of the few subjects she drew from incidents in English literature, in this instance depicting the heart-broken Maria of Moulines in Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, first published in 1768:
'When we had got within half a league of Moulines, at a little opening in the road leading to a thicket, I discovered poor Maria sitting under a poplar. She was sitting with her elbow in her right hand: - a small brook ran at the foot of the tree... She was dressed in white, and much as my friend described her, except that her hair hung loose, which was before twisted within a silk net. - She had superadded likewise to her jacket, a pale green ribband, which fell across her shoulder to her waist, at the end of which hung her pipe. - Her goat had been as faithless as her lover; and she had got a little dog in lieu of him, which she had kept tied by a string to her girdle...'
There is a variant of the present picture, also painted on copper, in a private English collection.