Philip Herbert was the second son of Philip, 5th Earl of Pembroke (1620-1669) and his second wife Catherine Villiers (c. 1634 - c. 1677). He was created a Knight of the Bath at Charles II's coronation in 1660 and later succeeded his elder brother as 7th Earl of Pembroke in 1674. In the same year, he married Henriette de Penancoet (d. 1728), daughter of Guilliaume de Penancoet, Comte de Keroualle, and younger sister of Louise de Keroualle, Countess of Portsmouth. Wright is known to have worked for the Herbert family at Powis Castle.
The detail of a horse and equerry beyond the sitter was a favourite motif of Wright's. He used it in the background of A Portrait of Henry Howard, 6th Duke of Norfolk (c. 1660, private collection) and An unidentified woman with a riding crop (untraced; both are illustrated in S. Stevenson and D. Thomson, John Michael Wright: The King's Painter, Edinburgh, 1982, nos. 15 and 30).