George Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford (1730-1791) was the only child of Robert Walpole, 2nd Earl of Orford (1701-1751) and his wife Margaret Rolle (1709-1781). The 3rd Earl served as Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk from 1757 and was appointed a Lord of the Bedchamber to George II and George III. A celebrated falconer and courser, the 3rd Earl is better known for selling his family's magnificent art collection to Catherine the Great in 1778, forming the basis of the collection at The Hermitage - an act viewed as a national calamity by the British Museum, who had bid for the collection. He died, insane, without legitimate issue.
Originally in the collection of Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill, the present work was situated in 'The Tribune', or Chapel, which contained most of Walpole's smaller art treasures. Oil paintings and watercolours were hung on the walls and miniatures were displayed inside a Padouk veneered cabinet, commissioned by Horace Walpole on his return from his Grand Tour, and now in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum (inv. no. W.52:1, 2-1925). John Carter's watercolour of the open cabinet (illustrated opposite), published in A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole, 1784, reveals a number of miniatures and enamels, including the present lot.