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This portrait shows three ladies, possibly of the Leman family of Norfolk. The eldest is dressed in mourning and works a mechanical spinning staff; the lady next to her wears a black and white striped dress associated with half-mourning and holds a knotting shuttle. Their companion opposite interrupts her reading to take a pinch of snuff.

The stiff, formal poses of the sitters and imaginary setting were typical of most group portraits of the early eighteenth century. The emphasis was primarily on status and family dynasty rather than likeness or character.

September 2004