Richard Edgcumbe was the eldest son of Richard, 1st Baron Edgcumbe (bap. 1680, d. 1758), and his wife Matilda Furnese (d. 1721). As a young boy, Edgcumbe, who drew and painted, was a close friend of Joshua Reynolds and his father was one of Reynolds’ first patrons. Edgcumbe went on to become a politician and held various positions throughout his career, including Lord of Trade, Lord of the Admiralty, Comptroller of the Household and Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall. As a Member of Parliament he represented the boroughs of Plympton Erle from 1742-47, Lostwithiel from 1747-54 and Penryn from 1754-58. Edgcumbe was a man-about-town and a friend of Horace Walpole, George Selwyn and Gilly Williams. Indeed, Reynolds painted for Walpole a group portrait of Edgcumbe, Selwyn and Williams, entitled A Conversation Piece. Edgcumbe was also a habitual gambler, regularly losing 20 guineas a day at White's Club. He had four children with a mistress, but died unmarried and was succeeded by his brother George, 1st Earl of Mount Edgcumbe (1720-1795). The present lot is a variant of a larger portrait by Reynolds, which was destroyed by bombing in World War Two. Mannings notes that the format is unusual, though not unique. (op.cit. p.177).