A transcript dated 1898, hand written by Sir Francis Grant's daughter Elizabeth, lists the commission date for the present portrait as May 1841 'The Earl of Zetland and horse/Life size' at a cost of '£420'. The transcript does not list the companion portrait of Sophia Jane, Countess of Zetland, which was presumably commissioned at the same time. The latter portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1849. The pair sold together at Christie's in 1967, but the current whereabouts of the Countess's portrait is unknown.
Thomas Dundas, 2nd Earl of Zetland, K.G. (1795-1873) was elected Whig Member of Parliament in 1818 for the seat of Richmond, North Yorkshire, a post both his father and grandfather held before him. He succeeded to the title 2nd Earl of Zetland in 1839. He was also a Knight of the Garter and Grandmaster of the Freemasons of England between the years 1844 to 1873.
The Earl is presented here on a grand scale reflecting his stature - he had succeeded to the title 2nd Earl of Zetland just two years previously and was then the Lord Lieutenant of the North Riding of Yorkshire.
An avid sportsman, the most famous of the Lord Zetland's horses was Voltiguer, a thoroughbred bred by Robert Stevenson at Hartlepool in Durham in 1847. Lord Zetland was willing to pay the sum of £1,500 after seeing the colt trial at Aske, the seat of the Zetland family. Voltiguer went on to win The Derby and St. Leger in 1850 and was immortalized by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer in a portrait dated 1870 which still hangs at Aske Hall, North Yorkshire.