The philosopher John Locke (d.1704), a friend and supporter of Lord Shaftesbury, was associated with the opposition to both King Charles II and King James II, and was forced to flee to Holland in 1684. He returned to England on the accession to the throne of William and Mary and was made Commissioner of Appeals. A champion of empirical thought, Locke was celebrated for his essays on religion, education and politics, and his best known work was An Essay concerning humane understanding and treatises on Government (1680).
The present picture relates to the prototype by Sir Godfrey Kneller in the Collection of the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, dated 1697. The Heinz archive at the National Portrait Gallery suggests that the present picture may be a version of the portrait discarded from Christ Church College, Oxford.