Rosalba Carriera was an Italian pastellist and painter, the sister-in-law of Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini, whose works significantly influenced her own. She began her career painting snuff-boxes and miniature portraits on ivory, and in 1720 traveled to Paris with Pellegrini, where she made friends with many of the most important artists living in the city, among them Rigaud, Largillierre, de Troy and Watteau. After Paris, Carriera traveled to Vienna, where her later works are characterized by a greater austerity.
The present portrait of Thomas Chase is typical of Carriera's early style, and makes it clear why she was considered a master of the challenging pastel medium. The composition is subtly colored and characterized by a lack of severity that the artist brought to even her most important commissions.
Born in Lisbon to British parents, Thomas Chase (1729-88) witnessed the devastating Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and wrote of it in a letter to his sister. The letter, discovered a century later, was published in Blackwood's magazine in 1860. Reference to Chase can be found in correspondence from Horace Walpole who believed, erroneously, that he had been crushed in the ruins of his house during the earthquake. Chase spent much of his adult life in Italy, as a member of Lord Tylney's household in Florence. He is recorded on many occasions as being in Rome, Naples, Florence and Fiesole.