In the mid-18th century, British artists developed a distinctive type of portraiture known today as the Grand Manner. Like this work, Grand Manner portraits were large in size, and meant to demonstrate the importance of a family’s lineage. Many were hung in the formal rooms and hallways of great British houses. Henrietta Read’s grandfather, a wealthy brewer, commissioned Gainsborough to paint this portrait – as well as those of other family members – as part of a dynastic display. In a pose that recalls 17th-century court portraits, Henrietta drapes part of her lilac gown over a stone plinth, providing a cushioned support for her elbow and revealing her white silk petticoat. The pink, cream, and charcoal of her delicate gown admirably complement her complexion and dark hair color, and provide a striking foil to her bold black eyebrows and dark brown eyes.