The subject of this portrait is an unknown nun from the convent of the Dominican Sisters of Charity at Meudon, near Paris. Around 1913, John received a commission from the convent to paint a portrait of the nun who founded the order in 1696. The commission took several years to complete, partly because a number of the nuns requested copies to hang in their own rooms. The artist then worked for about twelve years on a series of portraits of nuns, of which this painting is one. The narrow tonal range, delicately textured surface and quiet sensitivity are typical of Gwen John's work.