Juliana Willoughby stands quietly but alertly, engaging the viewer with her direct, slightly questioning gaze. The blended harmonies of the pinks, whites, and creams of her skin tones, her dress, and her shining wisps of fine hair evoke not just Juliana, but the essence of all little girls of this age. The dramatic diagonals of the landscape, the energetic brushwork of the trees at the right, and the strong coloration of the sky provide a dynamic backdrop for the young subject.
Romney's sure sense of formal values is evident here in the effective balance of figure and landscape. In this portrait Romney successfully adapted his composition to a change in the sitter's costume, X-rays show that Juliana originally wore a small, brimless cap. During the two years it took Romney to complete the portrait, Juliana, who was by then almost six years old, had outgrown her mobcap and wore, instead, this broad-brimmed bonnet.
Like many of his contemporaries, Romney traveled to Italy, where he spent two years studying the work of Renaissance masters, in particular paintings by Titian and Raphael. The impact of these artists on his work can be seen in the simply expressed folds of Juliana's dress, the case and certainty of his outlines, and the artful balance of broad areas of color.
Painted for the sitter's father, Sir Christopher Willoughby, Bt. [1748-1808], Baldon House, Oxfordshire; by descent to Sir John Willoughby, 5th Bt., Fulmer Hall, Slough, Buckinghamshire, by whom it was sold 1906. (M. Knoedler & Co., London and New York); purchased February 1907 by Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 28 December 1934 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.
- Ward, Humphry and William Roberts. Romney. 2 vols. London, 1904: 1:95-96, 98-99, 101; 2:172.
- Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 171-172, no. 104, as Miss Willoughby.
- Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 241, repro. 18, as Miss Willoughby.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 115, repro., as Miss Willoughby.
- King, Marian. Portfolio Number 3. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1951: no. 9, color repro.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 136, color repro., as Miss Willoughby.
- Cooke, Hereward Lester. British Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1960 (Booklet Number Eight in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 42, color repro. on cover, as Miss Willoughby.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 222, repro., as Miss Willoughby.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 116, as Miss Willoughby.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:358, color repro., as Miss Willoughby.
- Henderson [later Jaffé], Patricia. George Romney. Maestri del colore series, no. 250. Milan, 1966: color pl. 14.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 103, repro., as Miss Willoughby.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 308, repro., as Miss Willoughby.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: no. 509, color repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 362, no. 507, color repro., as Miss Willoughby.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 354, repro., as Miss Willoughby.
- Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 56, 89, color repro.
- Hayes, John. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 235-237, color repro. 236.
- National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 151, repro.
- Pointon, Marcia. Hanging the Head: Portraiture and Social Formation in Eighteenth-Century England. New Haven, 1993: 182, 184-185, color fig. 216.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 281, no. 229, color repro.
- Catlin, Roger. "The Candidates' Thoughts on Art? Well, the Picture's a Little Fuzzy." Washington Post 135, no. 307 (7 October 2012): E7, color repro.
The medium-weight canvas is tightly twill woven; it has been lined. The light gray ground is applied smoothly and fairly thickly. The painting is executed in vigorously brushed thick paint with moderate impasto in the costume, while the darks are painted in thin, transparent glazes. X-radiographs show that the sitter originally wore a smaller hat and that her features then appeared younger; there are slight pentimenti in her right shoulder and the contour of the bow. The painting is in good condition. The paint surface has not been abraded and there are no major losses. The impasto was slightly flattened during lining and there is scattered but minor retouching. The synthetic varnish applied after conservation in 1985 has not discolored.