Small scale full-length conversation pieces such as this ornate and intricately painted family group were very popular among both the middle classes and aristocracy in the 1730s. By 1735 several painters, including Charles Philips, Gavin Hamilton, Philippe Mercier and William Hogarth had all taken up painting family groups in known interiors or familiar landscapes. Philips' doll-like groups were particularly fashionable with the nobility, and he included Frederick, Prince of Wales, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, and Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset, among his patrons.
The artist, who was born and died in London, was the son of Richard Philips (c.1681-1741) and is believed to have been taught by him. The 1909 Dictionary of National Biography records that: 'He was noted for his small whole-lengths and conversation pieces, which are minutely and skilfully, if somewhat timidly, painted, and valuable on account of the truth and sincerity with which the costumes and accessories are treated.' In 1738 he married and established himself in Great Queen Street near Lincoln's Inn Fields, a fashionable area for artists and patrons. It was at about this date, when the vogue for conversation pieces faded, that Philips moved to painting full scale portraiture, although with rather less success. His last important works on this latter scale are the life-size full lengths of the Prince and Princess of Wales, of 1737. No dated works by the artist are recorded after 1740.