Richard Ironmonger Troward, the eldest son of Richard Troward of Margate, Kent, and his wife Susannah, was baptised on 31 May 1751 at St. Peter's Church, Sandwich, Kent. He was admitted to Grays Inn, Holborn Court, London in March 1775, but was not called to the Bar and instead became a solicitor and attorney. In 1782, Troward is recorded in partnership with Albany Wallis (d.1800), executor of David Garrick, at Wallis's lodgings on Norfolk Street, off the Strand. In 1793, Troward is also recorded as living at 77 Pall Mall, which was later a government office, and in 1799 is described as being of Sunbury, Middlesex. On Wallis's death in 1800, Troward moved his practice to 94 Pall Mall and later, in 1811, to 16 Albermarle Street, where he entered into partnership with G.A. Marrifield in 1812. Troward and his wife Sarah had two children. Their daughter Sarah married Thomas Hewitt Key (1799-1875) in 1824 and can therefore be identified as the Mrs T.H. Key referred to on an old handwritten label on the stretcher. Their son Richard (1791-1854) was admitted to the Middle Temple in July 1810. Richard Ironmonger Troward's death is noted in The Gentleman's Magazine on 18 October 1815.
Troward is shown in his office in Norfolk Street. Troward and Wallis practised at several addresses on Norfolk Street between 1782 and 1800, including nos. 20 and 22 (from 1782), no.21 (from 1793) and no.19 (from 1799). The view of the Thames through the open window in this painting, looking towards Westminster Abbey and showing the York Water Tower on the right, places the sitter in no.22 Norfolk Street, at the Thames end of the street, on the West corner. This deduction is strengthened by the old handwritten label on the stretcher, which dates the painting to 1786. While the label, rather conflictingly, records the location as no.19 Norfolk Street, an office in that house would not have had a view of the River Thames. The mention of Troward's daughter as 'Mrs T.H. Key' in the label, however, proves that it was not written until at least 1824, when Troward had indeed subsequently practised at 19 Norfolk Street.
Having lived at 20 Norfolk Street from 1750, Albany Wallis took the opportunity to acquire the adjoining house, 22 Norfolk Street, on the death of his neighbour Dr. Thomas Byrch in 1767. In addition to being rector of St. Michael's, Wood Street (1744) and St. Margaret Pattens (1746), and Secretary of the Royal Society (1752-1765), Dr. Byrch (b.1705) had been an established historian. He wrote 'Memoirs of Queen Elizabeth' and was described by Sir Robert Walpole as 'a worthy, good natured soul, full of industry and activity' (cited in H. Phillips The Thames About 1750, London, 1951, p.96). 22 Norfolk Street may also have been home briefly to Peter the Great, on his visit to London in 1698; as the 'Postman' recorded on 13 January that year: 'On Monday night the Czar of Muscovy [sic], arriving from Holland, went to apartments prepared for him in Norfolk Street, near the waterside' (cited in H. Phillips, op.cit, p.97). This description narrows the options down to either 22, on the West side, or 23 on the East side.
Francis Wheatley trained at both Shipley's Academy and the Society of Arts in London, before becoming one of the founder students of the Royal Academy Schools in 1769. Wheatley was abroad in 1763, probably in the low Countries and France, and spent a brief period in Dublin between 1779 and 1783, avoiding English creditors, where he painted The Irish House of Commons (1780, Lotherton Hall, West Yorkshire). He was elected a Fellow of the Socity of Artist in 1770 and became a Director in 1774. In addition, Wheatley was elected a Royal Academician in 1791.