Born in Massachusetts, Hathaway worked as an itinerant portrait painter before pursuing a career in medicine. "Lady with Her Pets" is his earliest known work and depicts Molly Wales Fobes of Raynham, Massachusetts. Fashionably dressed, Molly sits in a Chippendale-style chair surrounded by a fantastical array of “pets,” which were likely included as emblems of her beauty, loyalty, and affection. They may also reference her family’s interest in natural history, as her father was a professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy. The flowers decorating her fan and bodice, combined with her French-inspired hairstyle, identify Molly as a refined and worldly woman.
Signature: [at lower right]: RH / Octr / 1790
Inscription: [at lower left]: Canter
Marion Raymond Gunn, Newton, Massachusetts, by 1957; her estate; with Vose Galleries, Boston, as agents, 1958; with Mary Allis, Fairfield, Connecticut and Winsor White, Duxbury, Massachusetts, 1958; Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, Cambridge, Maryland, 1958 –1963