Lord Holland, who succeeded his father in 1774 and was the nephew of Charles James Fox, was one of the key political figures of his generation. Educated at Eton and Christ Church, he made an extensive grand tour and married the divorcée Lady Webster in 1797. During their long tenure, Holland House in Kensington was a centre of both intellectual and political life and Holland was himself one of the most consistent and determined proponents of the Whig party.
During their residence in Florence in the winter of 1794-5, Lord Holland and Lady Webster took an interest in two young French painters who had settled in the city: Louis Gauffier and Fabre, who was the youngest member of what was in effect a ménage à trois with Vittorio Alfieri, the tragedian, and the Countess of Albany, widow of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, who herself became a friend of Lady Webster. Holland and his friend Lord Wycombe sat to both Gauffier and Fabre, whose full portraits of the former are recorded in the Holland House papers:
'le portrait en pied de Milord Holland, grandeur naturelle
quatre autres portraits, demi figures
celui de Milord Holland avec ... bordeur
(British Library Add. Mss. 51637, f.52.)
The first of these portraits, showing Holland standing, originally a full-length, was in the Journal Room at Holland House and is now in a private collection. A replica of this is at Eton College and another was in the collection of Mr. M. Powys in Bath (R. Walker, National Portrait Gallery, Regency Portraits, London, 1985, p. 256). This portrait corresponds closely with that in the National Portrait Gallery, no. 3660, which also passed to the sitter's daughter Lady Lilford.
Walker suggests that the ring that he wears may be a reference to Holland's intentions to Lady Webster, whom he was to marry in 1797.