When Gainsborough moved back to Suffolk from London, he painted a number of portraits of the Kirby family, including this extraordinary one of Joshua Kirby’s mother, Alice, now in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Alice Brown was born about 1685, married John Kirby in 1714 and had about a dozen children, not all of whom survived. She died in 1766. The exact date of the portrait is not known, but it was probably painted around 1752-5. Gainsborough painted a companion portrait of Kirby’s father, who died in 1753.