Inscribed on verso at lower right, in graphite, "G. Romney".
According to the Romney scholar Alex Kidson, this sheet is a study for the painting "The Infant Shakespeare Nursed by Tragedy and Comedy" in its first variant of 1783-4, distinguished by the position of the baby between the two female figures (email correspondence with Alex Kidson, 8 November 2009; Kidson 2002, cat. 76). Three versions of the painting are known, the first of which was given to the Boydells and exhibited at the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery (Kidson 2002, cat. 132, n. 1). In the later variants, the heads of both female figures are positioned to the right of the baby's head, which is shown in profile (email correspondence with Alex Kidson, 8 November 2009; Kidson 2002, cat. 76 and cat. 132; Jaffe 1977, cat. 62). The subject of this drawing relates to the painting "Nature Unveiling herself to the Infant Shakespeare" (ca. 1792) in the collection of the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington D.C. (Kidson 2002, cat. 67). In the McCrindle sheet, the figures of Tragedy and Comedy replace those of Sorrow and Joy. Patrica Jaffé notes that Romney's treatment of the birth of Shakespeare may have begun as "The Infancy of Jupiter," a subject the artist noted in one of his Italian sketchbooks Jaffé, 2002, p. 38). Both Kidson and Jaffe suggest an Italian religious work such as Guido Reni's "Birth of the Virgin" as another potential source of inspiration for Romney's composition (Kidson 2002, p. 137, n. 88; Jaffé 1977, p. 38). Kidson also suggests Joshua Reynold's portrait of "David Gerrick Between Tragedy and Comedy" as possible source as well. (Kidson 2002, 137, n. 88).
Works cited: Patricia Jaffé, Drawings by George Romney (Cambridge; London; New York; Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1977); Alex Kidson, George Romney 1734-1802 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002).