John Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle (1662 -1711) was the son of the 3rd Earl of Clare and his wife Grace Pierrepont. In 1690 he married Lady Margaret Cavendish, a daughter of Henry Cavendish. They had one child, Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles (1694-1755), who married the 2nd Earl of Oxford and Mortimer and was mother to Margaret Bentinck, Duchess of Portland.
The present work is after a full-scale portrait of the Duke in his Garter robes, by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723). It is similar to two other miniatures of Newcastle, signed by Peter Cross, in the Portland Collection at Welbeck Abbey, Oxford (R. W. Goulding, The Welbeck Abbey Miniatures, 1916, pp. 108-9, no. 111 and p. 133, no. 166, illustrated pl. XVI) and one other, after Peter Cross, in the Clarke Collection (exhibited at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 2001, no. 24).