This is a portrait of the Venetian dancer Giovanna Zanerini, whose stage name was Baccelli. She was principal ballerina in London at the King's Theatre, Haymarket. She was also the mistress of John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset. This portrait was painted by Gainsborough at the height of Baccelli's career. Here she is depicted in the costume, make-up and pose from 'Les Amans Surpris' (The Lovers Surprised), a ballet she performed during the 1780-1 season. When this portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1782, Gainsborough's portrait of the Duke of Dorset was withdrawn, presumably for reasons of decorum.
Thomas Gainsborough 1727-1788 Giovanna Baccelli 1782 Oil on canvas T02000