About this artwork

Reynolds was particularly skilled at choosing poses and actions which suggested a sitter's character and which also created a strong composition. Here, three sisters, the daughters of the 2nd Earl Waldegrave, are shown collaboratively working on a piece of needlework. The joint activity links the girls together. The eldest, Elizabeth Laura, who was aged twenty in 1780, sits in the centre winding silk thread. She is aided in this pursuit by Charlotte Maria, aged nineteen, on her right, while Anna Horatia, at eighteen the youngest of them, is working on a length of silk lace stretched across a tambour frame.

Audio commentary

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Updated March 2022

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Sir Joshua Reynolds

Sir Joshua Reynolds