This picture is a fragment of a larger portrait of Miss Sarah Buxton, afterwards Mrs Charles Dumbleton (1757-83), painted by Gainsborough circa 1777-76, and believed to have been cut into two parts following a fire. An image of a sketch of the original composition is in the Witt Library, London. The damage must have occured prior to 1884 when an inscription on the lining canvas records the picture of the greyhound as a separate entity: 'Greyhound; by Gainsborough. By the will of Ellen Dumbleton dec'd Aug 16th 1884 this picture with 3 others is left to her son Henry for his life, and from him in succession to her next surviving son, to become the absolute property of the last holder'.
Gainsborough had a great fondness for dogs. His earliest dated painting, Bumper, 1745 (private collection), depicts a dog in a landscape and the sensitivity with which this was painted anticipates Gainsborough's later attitude towards the animals: Bumper is described by Gainsborough on the reverse of the canvas as 'A most remarkable sagascious cur'. He painted portraits of his own dogs, Tristram and Fox (Tate Britian, London), with similar sensitivity. More formal depictions of dogs, such as in the present picture, may be found in many of the artist's portraits, for example the excited spaniel greeting his master, George, 2nd Lord Vernon (1767, Southampton Art Gallery) and the loyal fox dog by Mrs 'Perdita' Robinson's side (c. 1781-82, Wallace Collection, London). A fine depiction of dogs within a sporting context may be found in his dramatic, 'Greyhounds coursing a fox' (Kenwood House, London).
The 'remaining' portrait of Miss Sarah Buxton, measuring 43¾ x 34½ in., passed by descent to Walter Dumbleton of Chichester and was sold to Duveen in 1918. It was sold through Judge Gary's sale, New York, on 28 April 1928 (lot 34) to Mr E. Jonas, and was recorded by Waterhouse (op. cit.) in the collection of Kay Kimbell, Fort Worth Texas. Deaccessioned by the Kimbell Art Museum in 1983, it is now in the collection of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.