Built by John Perry & Sons at their Blackwall yard in 1801, the Marquis of Ely was measured at 1,262 tons and was 165½ feet in length with a 42 foot beam. For most of her career, her principal managing owner was Robert Wigram and, when first commissioned, she was commanded by Captain Andrew Hannay. Her maiden voyage was to China and, after leaving Portsmouth on 12th February 1802, she called at St. Helena and Penang before arriving at Whampoa on 27th September. Returning that December, she was back in the Downs on 19th May 1803 and from then onwards, she made regular trips to China, occasionally calling at Madras en route to load Indian cotton. After her 1816-17 voyage, the last of five under the command of Captain James Dalrymple, William Mellish became her managing owner and he appointed Captain George Richardson to succeed Dalrymple. Sailing from the Downs bound for Whampoa on 22nd April 1819, she returned to the Downs on 26th September 1820 after what was her final voyage under East India Company colours. Thereafter disappearing from record, probably renamed after being sold, it seems probable that this painting was commissioned to mark her disposal from the East India Company's fleet.
Although featured as a distant panorama, various Madras landmarks, including Government House with its colonnaded terrace (far right), St. Mary's Church, the Exchange, the Arsenal and the Town Hall, are all identifiable on the far shoreline in this work. The original Fort St. George dated from 1641, the year after Madras was first colonised by the English, and, by 1820, the city ranked as third in importance in India.