We are grateful to Hugh Belsey for dating this drawing to the mid 1740s. Comparable Drawings are illustrated in J. Hayes, The Drawings of Thomas Gainsborough, London, 1970, pls. 3-4.
The earliest known owners of Gainsborough drawings were his Ipswich friends, Thicknesse, Kirby and Kilderbee. Our knowledge of Kirby's collection is quite good, as a result of the catalogue of the sale held in 1860 and additional information provided by The Rev. Kirby Trimmer to Thornbury a year or so later. Trimmer claimed Gainsborough 'gave him [Kirby] his first drawing (now in my possession)' as well as 'above a hundred drawings in pencil and chalk, most of which I still have; including a full-length self-portrait reclining on a bank and a sketch on a small piece of paper of the artist and his wife before they were married, (see W. Thornbury, vol. 2, pp. 58-9). Of the fifteen drawings sold in 1860, several were portraits of Jos, Kirby and his wife, while three were acquired later than the 1750s, two of these being varnished drawings and the third a study of trees purchased at the Kilderbee sale.