This is one of Leighton's earliest works, executed when he was twenty-one, and a student at the Stadelsches Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt. It predates his move to Rome in 1852-3, which may be regarded as having marked the beginning of his independent career as a painter, and where he produced his first masterpiece Cimabue's celebrated Madonna is carried in procession through the streets of Rome (1854, Royal Collection). It nevertheless shows Leighton's assured grasp of the conventions of European society portaiture in the use of column bases at the sides of the composition, and the dramatic use of light against a stormy sky. The textures of fur and fabric are described with unusual veracity, and attention is also paid to the still life of pomegranates lower right, which carry classical allusions to fecundity.
The sitters are the children of an English visitor to Frankfurt, with whom Leighton came into contact in the winter of 1851-2. Ida Marryat, subsequently the Countess Bondé, born in 1843, sits on the left, while her brother Adrian Somerset Marryat, born in 1844, holds aloft a pekinese. The infant Frederic Marryat, born in 1851, reclines on a cushion. The portrait, and others like it from this date, were amongst Leighton's earliest commissions. Paintings executed for close friends and family, by contrast, lacked the subsidiary details which contributed to the illusion of this portrait being executed 'in the grand manner'.
The picture retains its original frame, which is embellished with a garland of fruit and flowers.