The sitter in this portrait, Harriet Paxton, was the daughter of William Gyll of Wyrardisbury House, Buckinghamshire, who married Archibald Paxton of Watford Place, Hertfordshire.
Engleheart’s sitters book indicates that he painted Mrs Paxton on 1st October 1788, for which he was paid £10 10s 6d on the 31st of the same month. Mrs Paxton was painted again in 1792, however, the costume depicted in the present miniature is likely to date from the first sitting.
Born at Kew, George Engleheart enrolled in the Royal Academy schools in 1769, after a period working with the landscape painter George Barret. Once an independent miniaturist, Engleheart enjoyed virtual overnight success and from 1775 ran one of the most successful studios in the country. He was prolific – his fee book records almost thirty sittings on some days – and his forty-year career maintained virtually the same consistent pace throughout. His careful draughtsmanship and rapid drawing from the life make his portraits some of the most lively and attractive from the period.
Engleheart attracted wealthy and important clientele and by 1776 had already painted George III several times (he would paint the king over twenty-five times during his career). In 1789, on the death of Jeremiah Meyer, he was officially appointed miniature painter to the King.