Wilkie was renowned for depicting figures full of character, and for capturing recognisable social types. He used a familiar language of facial appearance and expression to render complex group scenes intelligible. Collectors were attracted to the variety and vitality of his pictures.
This is a study for a work shown at the Royal Academy in 1816, The Rabbit on the Wall - a candle-light amusement, in which a father entertains his children by making shadow creatures. One contemporary critic commented on the artist’s skill at the ‘strong and accurate painting of character’.