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This 'conversation piece' exemplifies Zoffany's abilities to create images of family life at once painstakingly naturalistic and minutely attentive to the appropriate social roles of his sitters. The sitters are Richard Dalton, antiquarian and graphic artist and librarian to George III; his wife Esther and their orphaned niece Mary de Heulle, whom the Daltons (who were childless) adopted. Zoffany depicts them as exemplary parents, Richard taking care of the girl's aesthetic and intellectual education, while Elizabeth is engaged in a suitably genteel practical 'accomplishment'.

August 2004