Ann, Lady Butler, was the mother of de Maistre's most generous patrons, Rab Butler and his wife Sydney, nee Courtauld. The artist produced three portraits of his subject, one "subdued and state-like" (Portrait of Ann, Lady Butler, 1935 (Private collection) and two abstract portraits, one of which is currently in the Ulster Museum (Ann, Lady Butler, undated) and the second which was "given to the owner's family in the early 1950s" (H. Johnson, Roy de Maistre, Sydney, 1995, p.41).
In fact, this second portrait was gifted by the artist to Maude and Nigel Gosling, whose son, Nicholas, was de Maistre's godson. The relationship between the three had begun when de Maistre turned to Nigel Gosling for advice on a ballet film he had been attempting to produce during the mid-1930s: a project he attempted to revive again in 1947. The portrait remained in the owners' possession throughout that time, until the death of Maude Gosling in 2004.
de Maistre's relationship with the family of Ann, Lady Butler, was especially close. "De Maistre was obviously companionable and welcomed by members of the Butler family to accompany them on trips. Ann, Lady Butler wrote to Sydney Butler, her daughter-in-law, of one such trip in May 1931, commenting that "Your journey and hotels all sounded awfully cleverly managed. Nice that Roy de Mestre went too." Nevertheless, family opinion on the first portrait of Lady Butler produced in 1935 was divided, with some feeling that it did not display the subject's warmth and femininity, while others believed that "de Maistre penetrated the tough, clever, dramatic woman beneath." (H. Johnson, op. cit., p.41).
In this later, abstracted portrait de Maistre's intentions moved away from capturing the likeness of his subject. Instead, "the figure has been reduced to a flattened pattern of shapes and colours. De Maistre has worked the painting in a purely objective rendering of the shapes and patterns of the clothing of the original figure. There is no concession at all to the personality of the sitter. She has been reduced to a haughty, card-playing queen. This may perhaps be accounted for by the difference in time between the realistic and the abstracted image - almost twenty years." (Ibid).
This remarkable and important portrait represents a juncture in the artist's career when the worlds of patronage in the arts and ballet coalesced. In fact, the connections it acknowledged were to stand de Maistre in good financial stead for the rest of his life, and set him on a course in England that would shape his oeuvre in both terms of bot subject and style.