The sitter was the second surviving son of Colin Mackenzie of Kilcoy and his wife Martha, daughter and co-heir of Charles Fraser of Castle Fraser and Inverallochy. He joined the army in 1778 rising to the rank of Captain by 1781. In 1786 he married Helen, the sister of Francis Humberston Mackenzie, Lord Seaforth, who appointed him Major in the 78th Highlanders. He was Member of Parliament for Cromartyshire (1802-6). In 1806 he commanded an ill-fated expedition to Alexandria, which hoped to secure British supremacy in Egypt. At the time of his death he was described as one of the most popular, if not one of the most able generals in the British Army.
The present picture relates to the three recorded versions of this portrait, one of which was sold by Collin J. Mackenzie of Portmore; Christie's London, 22 March 1918, lot 139, and is now in a private British collection. There is also another version at Essen.
We are grateful to Professor David Mackie for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.