A little girl and her dog are playing together in a wooded park. The place is a fine playground, with its soft, grassy carpet, and noble old trees. It is the sort of park which adjoins country houses of wealthy old English families, where years of training have brought to perfection the trees planted by previous generations. Here and there, through spaces among the branches, shafts of sunlight illumine the shady spot.

The child herself seems like some woodland sprite. She is bubbling over with fun, and is scarcely still a minute. Her spaniel is a gay playfellow,—a beautiful creature, with long silky hair and drooping ears. He is intelligent, too, and devoted to his mistress.

She leads him a merry chase, darting in and out among the big trees which hide her from him. He bounds after her, loses her a moment, and then, as she reappears, leaps upon her with delight.

In the midst of the frolic the child's attention is attracted by a group of boys who have entered the park, all unobserved, and have begun a game of cricket. On the instant she drops on her knees on the grass, seizes the dog, and, lest he should interrupt the sport, clasps her arms tight around his neck, to hold him fast. The poor spaniel is nearly choked, but patiently yields to the caprice of his young mistress while she watches the game with dancing eyes. From her gleeful expression one would fancy that the winner was her favorite.

Some such simple incident as this Sir Joshua Reynolds must have had in mind when painting the portrait of Miss Bowles; for every picture of his seems to carry a story with it, each one thought out to fit the circumstances and character of the sitter. The lively Miss Bowles, as we see, is totally unlike the demure Miss Boothby. They are both charming children; but, while Penelope would love to nestle in her mother's arms, Miss Bowles would dance coyly away. While Penelope would sit in doors by the hour, contented with her sewing, Miss Bowles would be skipping about the park like a little hoyden. The picture of Miss Bowles is, therefore, full of action; both child and dog pause only an instant, caught, as it were, in the midst of their play. The attitude of Penelope Boothby, on the other hand, is one of repose, as suits the tranquil nature of the little girl. The background of each picture is likewise perfectly appropriate. Miss Penelope's placid figure is seen against a leafy screen which nearly closes in the picture; but Miss Bowles needs plenty of space for her romps, and has a whole park to herself.

The painter's acquaintance with little Miss Bowles began very pleasantly. Her parents, proud of their lovely daughter, were planning to have her portrait made, and had chosen Romney for the painter. A friend of theirs—Sir George Beaumont—induced them to change their minds and engage Reynolds. Even if the portrait faded in time, as they were afraid it might, Sir Joshua's pictures sometimes having that fault, it would still be more beautiful than if painted by any other hand.


At Sir George's suggestion the painter was first invited to dinner, that he might see the child. She appeared at dessert, and was placed beside the stranger at the table. It did not take long for the two to become acquainted, for the painter immediately began to amuse the little girl with stories and all sorts of tricks. Calling her attention to some object on the other side of the room, he would steal her plate while she was looking away, and pretend to be greatly surprised at its disappearance. They would then try to find it, but in vain, until, when she was again off her guard, he would slip it into place, and there would be a great sensation over its discovery. Was there ever a jollier man for a little girl to dine with!

The next day it was proposed that Miss Bowles should be taken to visit her new friend, and she was of course delighted to go. When the party reached the studio, the child's face was shining with expectancy as she greeted the painter. It was this expression which Reynolds has caught so perfectly on his canvas, and which makes the little girl's face seem actually smiling into ours.

He was equally successful in catching a natural pose, watching her closely as she danced about the room. It was a theory of his that the unconscious movements of a child are always graceful, and we may be sure that Miss Bowles's position here is one of her own invention. Her skirt is spread out a little at one side, balancing, as it were, the figure of the dog opposite. The lines inclosing the entire group form a pyramid.

The original painting is still beautiful in color, being among the best preserved of Reynolds's works. Critics have pronounced it a "matchless work that would have immortalized Reynolds had he never painted anything else."