After training in Malmö, Stockholm and Göteborg, the Swedish painter and pastellist Roslin went via Germany to Italy, where he would have met François Boucher, who was to become one his closest friends when he arrived in France in 1752. In Paris, Roslin embarked upon a brilliant career, becoming one of the more accomplished portrait painters of his century, counting Louis-Philippe I, duc d'Orléans, and artists Collin de Vermont, Etienne Jeaurat, Boucher and Joseph Vernet among his subjects. In Paris he also executed the portraits of many foreigners, Swedes in particular, travelling through France, including the triple portrait of King Gustav III with his brothers, in 1771 (Stockholm, National Museum). It is there that Christian VII sat to Roslin for his portrait.
Roslin painted King Christian VII at least three times, each in a different pose: a full-length, showing the King (as here) in Coronation Robes, executed in 1768 when the artist was in Paris, is listed as in a Swedish private collection; a smaller oval of 1770 is in Versailles, and in addition he (or Jens Juel) may have finished a portrait of the King started by Louis-Michel van Loo (who died in 1771) (now at Frederiksborg; see Lundberg, op. cit., p. 65, no. 343, 345a and 345).
The son of Frederick V, King of Denmark, and his first consort Louisa, daughter of George II of Great Britain, Christian VII (1749-1808) was King of Denmark and Norway, and Duke of Schleswig and Holstein from 1766. The same year he married his cousin Princess Caroline Matilda, sister of George III of England. Shortly after his accession mental illness made him dependent on his physician, Johann Friedrich Struensee who in 1771 became an all-powerful minister. A year later it was discovered that Caroline Matilda was having an affair with Struensee, who was then arrested and executed the same year. The Queen retained her title but not her children, and eventually left Denmark in exile and passed her remaining days in Celle.
Christian's marriage was annulled and Andreas Peter Bernstorff became chief minister, and after 1784 Christian's son and successor, Frederick VI, acted as regent. Widespread liberal reforms were enacted under the direction of Bernstorff and Prince Frederick, notably the abolition of serfdom but the period was also marked by the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars. Christian died in 1808 at Rendsburg, Schleswig.