This is the only known portrait in which Gainsborough included himself with his family. With him are his wife, Margaret Burr, whom he married in July 1746, and their daughter. Gainsborough holds in his hand a paper, perhaps once showing a sketch, but now transparent with age, as is the figure of the child. It has been presumed that she must be the Gainsborough's eldest surviving daughter Mary, born shortly before February 1750.
However, both the style of the background and the evident difficulties Gainsborough had with the proportions of the rather stiff-limbed figures suggest a date closer to 1747-8, when Gainsborough was still working in London. The child may, therefore, be the Gainsborough's first-born but short-lived daughter, also named Mary, who died in 1748. Her date of birth is so far untraced, but the child in the picture would seem to be around eighteen months old.