William Courtenay (1768-1835), also known as William Beckford's young paramour, 'Kitty', succeeded his father as 3rd Viscount Courtenay in 1788. In the early 1780s he sat for his portrait for Romney, which had been commissioned by his admirer, William Beckford. Beckford was forced to embark on a decade of travel and social isolation on the Continent and is now known as a great collector and bibliophile. Viscount Courtenay fled to America in 1811 to escape his creditors, residing at the Claremont on the Hudson before purchasing the Château Dreveil in Paris in 1825-1826, where he lived in great style until his death. Twelve days before Lord Courtenay's death, the House of Lords revived in his favour the Earldom of Devon, which had been considered extinct for nearly three centuries.
A preparatory sketch by Augustin, inscribed in pencil 'Milord Courtenay', was in the Pierpont Morgan Collection, sold Christie's, London, 24-27 June 1935, lot 785. Another miniature of this sitter by Richard Cosway, R. A. was sold at Christie's, London, 10 December 2002, lot 120, and a further smaller example in the manner of Cosway of the present sitter was sold at Phillips, London, 6 July 1983, lot 219. See also Stephen Lloyd's exhibition catalogue Richard & Maria Cosway, Edinburgh, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1995, and London, National Portrait Gallery, 1995/1996, p. 122, no. 93, colour pl. 104.