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The children in this portrait were the offspring of wealthy baronet and landowner Sir Edward Astley and his second wife Anne Milles. They are depicted at play on a classical terrace, reminiscent of the family’s grand estate at Melton Constable, Norfolk. Anna Maria, who waves her brother’s plumed hat above her head, died in childhood, the year after this portrait was painted. Edward, whose elder half-brother was to inherit his father’s title, lived to carve out a successful career as a soldier in the British army. It is thought that the portrait was commissioned by the children’s maternal grandfather.

February 2010