The portrait hanging above the mantelpiece in this lively scene is that of Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor 1765-1790. It resembles a portrait painted by Wehrlin, known from the artist's self-portrait, dated 1771, in the Vasari Corridor of the Uffizi, Florence. The Emperor's brother and eventual successor Leopold was, as Grand Duke of Tuscany 1765-1790, Wehrlin's most important patron; a group portrait of the grand ducal family dated 1773 is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
Wehrlin's biography has not been fully traced, and sources differ as to whether he was born in Vienna or in Turin. Various members of his family certainly seem to have served at the court in Turin, and he is likely to have begun his career there before moving to Florence. It seems likely that the male sitter in this work is an Austrian dignitary at the grand ducal court in Florence; the letter on his desk is addressed to the Emperor, referring to his titles as Archduke of Austria and King of Bohemia.