Francis Stephen Cary was the son of the Rev. Francis Cary (1772-1844), assistant keeper of printed books in the British Museum and the translator of Dante. Through his father he met many celebrated literary figures of the day, including Charles and Mary Lamb of whom he painted a moving portrait in 1834 (National Portrait Gallery). He studied art under Henry Sass is Bloomsbury before proceeding to the Royal Academy Schools, after which he worked for a short time in the studio of Sir Thomas Lawrence, studied in Paris and Munich (1829) and spent a further two years travelling abroad (1833-5). In 1842 he took over Sass's Academy, which now became 'Cary's'. This is his greatest claim to fame since his pupils included many of the finest artists of the day, including Millais and Rossetti. He exhibited fairly regularly at the Royal Academy from 1837 to 1876, showing historical, literary and religious subjects, as well as genre scenes. The present picture looks like an exhibition piece, but cannot be identified conclusively with any of his R.A. titles. Early Sorrow (1854) seems the most likely, and this would at least be consistent with any Pre-Raphaelite influence the picture may show. At all events, it is a rarity; Cary's file in the Witt Library contains no subject pictures, only two portraits.