In July 1816, three months prior to their marriage, Constable painted a portrait of his fiancée which he kept with him. He wrote to her that "I would not be without your portrait for the world. The sight of it soon calms my spirit under all trouble, and it is always the first thing I see in the morning and the last at night." The portrait was deemed an excellent likeness, with the fine and detailed finish of Maria's face contrasting with the looser brushstrokes comprising the background and her blouse.
Despite painting over 100 portraits in his career, most were executed out of financial necessity rather than an inherent interest in the genre. Nevertheless, many are refreshingly candid in their depictions, and there is a palpable sense of character and personality in the images he created. Constable did not compromise unique features to conform to contemporary beauty standards. This particular portrait exhibits a special sensitivity and warmth, which can be attributed to his close relationship with the sitter.
This portrait shares similarities with many of his other works in terms of the use of similarly colored, neutral backgrounds, and the composition of the sitters. Constable's portrayal of faces was always painstakingly detailed, but his approach to the sitter's garments varied depending on his relationship with the subject. Some clothing was rendered meticulously, while others were suggested through much looser brushwork, as seen in this portrait. This variance can be attributed to the commission basis of his work, where paintings for patrons were expected to be more highly finished.