'Washing' and 'Ironing' (LL 3118 and LL 3538) were purchased together at auction, where Lever had sent Gooden & Fox to acquire the works with no price limit for the two. They were purchased for immediate presentation to his soap works (Lever Brothers) and were never part of Lever's personal collection. It has been suggested that Morland’s inspiration for these and similar works were Philip Mercier's scenes of ‘Domestic Employment’ - women carrying out household tasks - which were engraved in the 1750s. Such works appealed to the aristocratic taste and probably had an erotic intention. The gowns have been identified as, respectively, painted silk and printed linen or cotton materials which were too expensive to have been worn by laundry maids. This suggests an element of the masquerade or dressing down on the part of the models. This idea is supported by the old manuscript inscriptions on the paintings' reverses identifying the models as the famous Gunning sisters: respectively. Elizabeth, Duchess of Hamilton and Argyle (1734 – 1790, who was also painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds (LL 3126)) and Maria, Countess of Coventry (1733 – 1760).