Painted for Josiah Wedgwood [1730-1795], Etruria, Staffordshire. John Greaves [b. 1793], Irlam Hall, near Manchester, by 1831. Charles Meigh, Grove House, Shelton, Staffordshire; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 21-22 June 1850, 1st day, no. 108, bought in); (Anon. [Meigh] sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, 18 June 1859, no. 202); purchased by John Bentley, Esq. [1797-1879], Birch House, near Bolton, Lancashire, and Portland Place, London; his estate; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 15 May 1886, no. 72); purchased by (McLean). William Bemrose; by descent to Colonel W. Wright-Bemrose, Littleover Hill, Derby. A. Ralph Robotham, The White House, Darley Abbey, Derby, by 1947; sold to (Gooden & Fox, Ltd., London); purchased August 1962 by Paul Mellon, Upperville, Virginia; gift 1983 to NGA.
- Pictures, Painted by J. Wright, of Derby, Robins, London, 1785, no. 13.
- Pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch and English Masters, Royal Manchester Institution, 1831, no. 130.
- Paintings by Wright of Derby 1734-1797, Graves Galleries, 1910, no. 93.
- Bicentenary Exhibition of Paintings by Joseph Wright, Corporation Art Gallery, Derby 1934, no. 35.
- Joseph Wright of Derby 1734-1797, Derby Museums and Art Gallery; Leicester Museums and Art Gallery, 1947, no. 37
- Joseph Wright of Derby, Arts Council of Great Britain, Tate Gallery, London; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1958, no. 25, pl. xi.
- Painting in England 1700-1850: Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, 1963, no. 372, repro. pl. 221.
- Painting in England 1700-1850: from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, Royal Academy of Arts, London; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 1964-1965, no. 235.
- Joseph Wright of Derby: A Selection of Paintings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1969-1970, no. 10, repro.
- Gifts to the Nation: Selected Acquisitions from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1986, unnumbered checklist, repro.
- Pintura Británica de Hogarth a Turner, organized by the British Council, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1988-1989, no. 34, color repro.
- Joseph Wright of Derby, Tate Gallery, London; Grand Palais, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1990, no. 69, color repro.
- An Enduring Legacy: Masterpieces from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1999-2000, no cat.
- La Sombra [Shadows], Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, 2009, no. 2, repro.
- L'Antiquité rêvée. Innovations et résistances au XVIIIe siècle [Antiquity Revived. Neoclassical Art in the Eighteenth Century], Musée du Louvre, Paris; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2010-2011, fig. 178 (French cat.), no. 90 (English cat.), repros. (shown only in Houston).
The canvas appears to be finely twill woven; it has been lined, probably at the time it was sold to Paul Mellon. The ground is white, of moderate thickness. The painting is executed thinly, smoothly, and precisely, with drier, thicker highlights. There are slight pentimenti in the female figure: the upright fingers of her left hand were originally placed about 1 cm. to the right, and her right hand was further to the left; vague forms below her arms and around her profile suggest that there were also slight changes in these areas. The paint surface is slightly abraded, and has been flattened during lining. There are several large areas of discolored retouching. The thick synthetic resin varnish has discolored slightly.
- Rosenblum, Robert. "The Origin of Painting: A Problem in the Iconography of Romantic Classicism." The Art Bulletin 39, no. 4 (December 1957): 284-285, fig. 5.
- Irwin, David. English Neoclassical Art. London, 1966: 79-80, pl. 92.
- Nicolson, Benedict. Joseph Wright of Derby: Painter of Light. 2 vols. London, 1968: 1:16, 64-65, 143, 149, 243, no. 224; 2:pl. 245.
- Wark, Robert. Review of Joseph Wright of Derby: Painter of Light by Benedict Nicolson. In The Art Quarterly 33 (1970): 72.
- Cummings, Frederick. "Joseph Wright at the National Gallery." The Art Quarterly 34 (1971): 478, 481.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 424, no. 590, colo repro., as by Joseph Wright of Derby.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 439, 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: 344-350, repro. 347.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 284-285, no. 231, color repro.