Laurent-Jean-François, Comte Truguet and Admiral of France, was born in Toulon on 10th January 1752, the son of a "chef d'escadre", and joined the French Navy in 1766. By the time France entered the American War of Independence on the side of the colonists in 1778, he had already seen action on eight occasions and during the siege of Savannah (in September 1779) - by which date he was a Lieutenant - he saved the life of le Comte d'Estaing. In 1784 he was appointed to the command of a corvette cruising in the eastern Mediterranean and remained on that station until 1789 during which time he did valuable surveying work which brought him to the attention of Louis XVI. After a spell of study in England in 1791, he was made Captain in 1792 and soon afterwards Vice-Admiral, followed by his appointment as Navy Minister in November 1795. During this tenure, he instituted many reforms but was also responsible for the abortive French expedition to Bantry Bay which probably resulted in his removal to become Ambassador to Spain in 1797. Returning home in November 1798, he was arrested and exiled to Holland but recalled and pardoned in July the next year. Disgraced in 1804 after he antagonised Napoleon, he was unemployed for the next five years before being given another command at Rochefort. Serving in Holland 1811-13, he returned to France to receive the Knight Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour from Louis XVIII in September 1814. Having taken no part in the events of the "Hundred Days", he entered the Chamber of Deputies in 1819 and involved himself solely in naval affairs until 1831 when he was appointed an Honorary Admiral; he died in Paris on 26th December 1839.
For a much fuller account of Truguet's life and career, see his entry in Nouvelle Biographie Generale depuis les temps les plus recules jusqu'a 1850-60, reprinted Copenhagen, 1967.
Paulin-Jean-Baptiste Guérin was born in Toulon and it was only at the relatively late age of twenty-seven, that he made his way to Paris to exhibit his works at the Salon. His real successes were not in the rather wooden religious subjects which he preferred however, but in the lively, fresh and colourful portraits that he produced to earn his living.
There is another version of this painting in the collection of the Musée de Versailles.