This is the drawing for the engraving by Thomas Holloway for volume II of the English edition of Johann Caspar Lavater's Essays on Physiognomy, published in 1792 (illustrated Weinglass, op. cit., p.112, no.105). This is a reworking of the drawing and engraving of 1780, anonymous but known to be by Johann Heinrich Lips, for the first French language edition of Lavater of 1781 onwards (the drawing in the Kunsthaus, Zurich is reproduced in Schiff, op. cit., no. 575; the engraving is reproduced in Weinglass, op. cit., p.45, no.58). The capital letters of the later drawing and engraving stand for "Dis manibus Marta Hess Heinrich Fseli" (or 'Fuseli'). Fuseli regarded the new engraving as an improvement on that of 1780, writing to the sitter: 'Nature had imprinted on this physiognomy the image of gentleness and benignity... The painter intended to give it an antique form, to introduce an expression of greatness, but [in the French edition] that expression has degenerated into hardness; and in this, perhaps, he has only lent it his own character, little formed apparently for sensibility' (see Weinglass, op. cit.).
During his six-month stay in Zurich, after returning from Rome in 1778 and before setting off again for London, Fuseli had formed a complicated attachment (both sentimental and sexual) with Anna Landholt and the sisters Magdalena and Marta Hess; the more ethereal and ecstatically religious Marta was to die of consumption in December 1779, shortly after Fuseli's departure.