Devis was a native of Preston, Lancashire, but by the early 1740s had moved to London. He took a studio in Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, an area much favoured by artists, and by 1750, the most likely date for this portrait, had built up a prosperous business. The identity of this gentleman is not known, although he appears elegantly attired, seated in a bare yet fashionable interior, fingering a letter he has just written. Devis is known to have used studio props for accessories and furniture in his portraits, and to have created imaginary architectural settings, and it could be that this is the case here.
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