This portrait is probably Lavater's best known representation. It was mounted by Lavater and entered his own collection in November 1796, according to Lavater's inscription on the mount. Another version of this coloured print is illustrated in D. Lachs, 'Wer war Johann Caspar Lavater', Das Kunstkabinett des Johann Caspar Lavater, exhib. cat., Vienna, 1999, p. 22, fig. 2).
Lavater is seated in his library below a painting by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein. The same room was again depicted by Lips in a portrait of Baron Vittinghof (G. Swoboda, 'Die Sammlung Johann Caspar Lavater in Wien', op. cit., p. 89, fig. 24). Lips' portrait of Lavater's wife, from the physiognomist's own collection and with the date 22 November 1795, is illustrated in D. Lachs, op. cit., p. 152, fig. 65.
Lips first studied engraving with Johann Rudolf Schellenberg, under Lavater's patronage. In 1780, having worked with Lavater, he began a tour of Europe that would last for fourteen years before he returned to Zurich.