The sitter was the son of William Bigge of St. Andrew's, Holborn, and Benton, Northumberland. He matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1757, and succeeded his father in the following year. He made the Grand Tour in 1764-5. On 20 March 1764, George Pitt, the Envoy at Turin, gave him a letter of introduction to Sir Horace Mann, which implies an intention to visit Florence. Bigge was in Rome by February 1765 - with a letter of introduction to the influential Scottish Catholic the Abbé Grant: by 8 March he had left for Naples, but he was back in Rome by 2 April and remained there until mid-June, before returning to the north by way of Parma and Florence. The journal of Sir William Farington establishes that Bigge visited with him the studio of the Scottish painter George Willison (see J. Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy, 1701-1800, compiled from the Brinsley Ford Archive, New Haven and London, 1997, p. 90).
This hitherto unpublished portrait is a characteristic work by Maron, the pupil and brother-in-law of Anton Rafael Mengs. Mengs had in the later 1750s painted a distinguished succession of portraits of British visitors to Rome, in overt competition with those of Batoni. Mengs' departure for Spain in 1761 meant that in the ensuing period a number of portrait commissions went to Maron. This sensitive example, in which the painter's attention to such details as the lace suggest his wish to rival Batoni, may be compared with that of Robert Fitzgerald, subsequently Knight of Kerry (d. 1781) which is also of 1765 (F. Russell 'The British Portraits of Anton Raphael Mengs', National Trust Studies, 1978, p. 18).