The sitter was a son of John Dighton (d. 1761), a solicitor, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of John Hunter of Fort St Madras. Richard went to India with his three brothers, James Lucy (1750-1841), Henry (b. 1759) and John (1761-1840) and became a writer for the East India Company in Madras in 1771. By 1776 he had become a factor, and by 1792 a senior merchant and collector for the Nellore district in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. His brother John entered the East India Service as a cadet in the Madras Presidency Infantry and he married Lucy Smart, daughter of the portrait miniaturist John Smart.
A corresponding drawing of the sitter by Smart, signed and dated 1790 with the 'I' for India, was in the collection of Lilian Mary Dyer, née Bose, a great-granddaughter of the artist, and was sold Christie's, London, 26 November 1937, lot 49 (together with a drawing of the sitter's brother, James). The portrait of Richard was later sold Sotheby's, London, 19 October 1981, lot 189 and subsequently Christie's, London, Edward Grosvenor Paine Collection, 12 October 1982, lot 17.