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Tree in the original background

composite image of a detail from the painting and an xray of the same area, showing where there used to be a tree in the background, which is now just dark

Detail of the x-ray of the left background and the equivalent area of the finished painting

The x-ray also shows that the to the left of the Viscountess there was originally a twisted, columnar form with a linear highlight weaving across its surface and a clump of circular shapes gathered at its base. Comparison with Gainsborough’s other portraits of the period suggest this was almost certainly a tree trunk with a climbing vine or ivy adding a decorative feature to the surface and blooms or foliage at the foot of the tree.