The sitter was the only surviving son of William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath (1684-1764) and his wife Anna Maria Gumley. He was educated at Westminster and in July 1748 set out with his tutor, the Rev. John Douglas (later Bishop of Salisbury), on the Grand Tour. On his return he was returned as Member of Parliament for Old Sarum from 1754-1761. In 1759 he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the 85th Light Infantry, The Royal Volunteers, and in 1760 was made a Lord of the Bedchamber. In 1761, with his regiment, he participated in the expedition to capture Belle Isle, off Brittany, and in November of the same year he sailed with his regiment in defence of Portugal. He fell ill with a fever on his return home and died, unmarried, in Madrid.
Four versions of Viscount Pulteney's portrait were commissioned from Reynolds and the sittings were in two groups: the first in March 1761 resulted in a portrait of Pulteney in civilian dress with his dog, the second set of sittings were from 15 April - 9 June 1762 and these resulted in portraits of Pulteney in uniform. The present painting closely relates to the version sold from the Reford Estate; Sotheby's, London, 7 November 1984, lot 193.