The first of this unusual pair of small-full-length portraits shows the sitters raising a toast. Although we do not know the identity of the sitters, it has been suggested that the toast is most likely to be 'a toast to the King over the water', popular for those with Jacobite sympathies, as the bottle of wine which the two gentlemen are holding looks to contain water rather than wine. In the first half of the 18th Century group portraits in which the sitters are shown together in such a convivial manner were increasingly fashionable. In an earlier portrait of 1721, Sir Godfrey Kneller had for example portrayed the Duke of Newcastle and his brother-in-law, the Whig magnate Henry Clinton, 7th Earl of Lincoln, sharing a bottle of wine seated at a table, while Thomas Hudson's later group portrait of the Benn's Club Aldermen, of 1752, who had definite Jacobite sympathies, also portrays the sitters gathered around a table with a bottle of wine with glasses. These two portraits particularly illustrate Slaughter's skill as a painter of costume.
Stephen Slaughter, who was born in England, trained as a pupil in Kneller's Academy, and spent much of his career in Ireland. As a painter he first appears in Ireland where he painted the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Nathaniel Kane, in 1734, but this visit appears to have been short as his other signed and dated works from 1735-43 appear to be of English sitters. However, he evidently returned to Ireland in the early 1740s as there are numerous portraits of Irish sitters, many of important figures such as Henry Boyle, Earl of Shannon, from the period 1743 to 1748. The present portaits, one of which is dated 1746, were painted in the same year that Slaughter painted Anne O'Brien, wife of Michael Cox, Bishop of Ossory (now in the National Gallery of Ireland), and Juliana, Viscountess Ikerrin. As the Knight of Glin and Anne Crookshank observed 'a long visit [to Ireland] is likely in view of his influence on Irish painters' (A. Crookshank and The Knight of Glin, The Painters of Ireland c.1660-1920, London, 1978, p. 41). However Slaughter must have returned to England during this time, if only briefly, for George Vertue, in 1744-5, states that 'this painter has lately been in Ireland at Dublin, where he has done many portraits & has had there great business'. He had also become Keeper and Surveyor of the King's Pictures in 1744 which suggests that he was in England in that year, although several Irish portraits are dated then including that of Archbishop Hoadley (now in the National Gallery of Ireland) and that of Elisabeth Brownlow, wife of the first Lord Knapton. He seems to have returned finally to London in the late 1740s and died at Kensington in 1765.