The present portrait is likely to date to circa 1761-2. Wright was based in Derby at this time, having spent two extended periods in the London-based workshop of Thomas Hudson (1751-3 and 1756-7); and undertaken a tour of the Midlands in 1760. He visited Neward, Retford, Boston, Lincoln and Doncaster during this tour, securing commissions from members of the rising middle classes, professional people and local landed gentry, the type of commission that would form the basis of his income throughout his life.
These early portraits show both Wright's debt to Hudson and his departure from his master's practices, being less stiff and often more sensitively observed. The present portrait anticipates Wright's Markeaton Hunt portrait series (c. 1762-3; J. Egerton, Wright of Derby, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 1990, pp. 38-42, nos. 5-8). The handling of the gold buttons is close to that in the portrait of Simon Wilmot (c. 1760, ibid., p. 46, no. 11); while the treatment of the neck-cloth and left hand might be compared to that in Wright's Self-Portrait of circa 1765 (ibid., p. 95, no. 43).
The sitter may be one of the officers listed in the artist's account books for circa 1760: Captains Bailey, Heathcote and Sherring were painted in Derby and Captain Blunt was painted in Boston (B. Nicholson, Joseph Wright of Derby: Painter of Light, London, 1968, pp. 178, 202, 220 and 182 respectively).