Emma Hill became Madox Brown's second wife in 1853. This portrait of her was made around Christmas in 1848. It is possibly the earliest drawing of Emma and was made soon after Brown hired her as his model. As Theresa Newman and Ray Watkinson have discovered she seems to have been using her mother's maiden name at the time, following the death of her father, and in his diary Brown refers to her as Miss Stone ('Ford Madox Brown and the Pre-Raphaelite Circle,' pp.45-6) .
Although this is a portrait of Emma it also appears to be a head study for Brown's painting 'Lear and Cordelia' (1848-49, oil on canvas, Tate, London). On 13 January 1849 Brown first mentions 'Miss Stone' in his diary as the model sitting for Cordelia: '13th Miss Stone, began a drawing for the head of Cordelia' (Virginia Surtees, ed., 'The Diary of Ford Madox Brown,' p. 56). The angle of the head, the downward gaze and the hairstyle are the same as in the painting. Only the slightly open mouth is different but this appears to have recorded a particular facial feature of Emma's, many of Brown's portraits of her show that her top lip naturally curled up to reveal her teeth (see 1906P790, 1906P791 and 1906P792). It is also possible that arm and hand studies for Lear and Cordelia (1906P758) may have been drawn from Emma.