The sitter in this portrait was co-heiress, with her sister Elizabeth, of the London linen draper John Rodbard (died 1780). However, she may not have been his natural daughter, but adopted. On 9 November 1786, at the age of 21, Sarah married Major (afterwards General Sir Eyre) Coote, to whom she bore three daughters, Susan, Sarah Anne and Catherine. She died aged 30 at Clifton near Bristol on 30 October 1795.
The portrait, one of the masterpieces of the British artist George Romney's later years, was painted in 1784. X-rays taken during cleaning in 1997 confirm that Romney originally intended to paint Miss Rodbard gazing to her right rather than towards the spectator, and to drape her in a cloak. He also reduced the size of the bow at her waist.