James Smith Barry (1797-1861) was a descendent of the Hon. John Smith Barry, youngest son of James, 4th Earl of Barrymore (d.1747) and his third wife Anne, youngest daughter of Arthur, 3rd Earl of Donegall. In 1747 John succeeded to his father's unsettled estates, which were considerable, including Marbury Hall and land in Cheshire, and Fota Island and land in Co. Cork. In 1746, he married Dorothy, daughter and co-heir of Hugh Smith, through whom large estates in Tipperary, Louth and Huntingdonshire entered the family. John had two sons, the elder of whom, James Hugh, father of the sitter in this picture, inherited both Marbury and Fota Island and formed an important collection of pictures and antiquities. On his death in 1801, his eldest son John inherited Marbury, and James inherited Fota.
The Smith Barrys were regular patrons of Ferneley, the commission of ten pictures being recorded in the artist's account books between 1822 and 1827.