Portraits painted from life by Henry Pierce Bone are rare. Like his father, Henry Bone, R.A., Henry Pierce Bone's works generally derive from large-scale portraits on canvas, the details of which are included in the long inscriptions on the counter-enamels, characteristic of works by both father and son. The Bone technique was to copy the original drawing on paper, trace on to tracing paper in ink, and finally transfer onto a copper or glass plate to be painted and fired to produce the final enamel version (R. Walker, 'Henry Bone's Pencil Drawings in the National Portrait Gallery', The Walpole Society, LXI, 1999, p. 305). In this instance, the drawing was taken from life, probably at Spencer House, London with a view of Green Park in the background.
A year before the present miniature was executed, John Charles, Viscount Spencer sat for Henry Pierce Bone in a plain black coat and without his robes of office. This smaller, head and shoulders, octagonal enamel dated August 1834 was sold anonymously at Sotheby's London, 6 November 1997, lot 267 (erroneously identified as having been exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1835, no. 436) and is now in the Spencer Collection at Althorp.
The George II gilt-wood console table next to which Viscount Althorp stands was designed by James 'Athenian' Stuart for the Great Room at Spencer House, St James's and is now at Althorp. The document on the table entitled 'Amendment of the Poor Laws' refers to the New Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 which followed the Reform Act of 1832. Under the premiership of Lord Grey, Viscount Althorp was instrumental in bringing about these constitutional reforms, 'the great aim and object of his political life' (D. Le Marchant, Memoir of John Charles, Viscount Althorp, third Earl Spencer, ed. H. D. Le Marchant, 1876).