The sitter, Mary Walker Waugh (1805–1886), was the artist’s mother-in-law. The portrait was made shortly after the death of Hunt’s wife, Fanny. In August of 1866 Hunt and his pregnant wife embarked for the Near East. Their son was born in Florence, but Fanny became ill and died. Mrs. Waugh blamed Hunt for the death of her daughter. Hunt and his son returned to London and moved into the Waugh household where he made this portrait. The sitter’s stern look and the heavy background convey a tense and anger-filled atmosphere.
(Text courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art).