When Gainsborough painted this portrait John Chafy was in his early thirties and probably still a bachelor. Chafy, who was the vicar at Great Bricett in Suffolk, was also talented amateur musician. Gainsborough too is known to have played several instruments with ‘native skill’ and was an active member of the Ipswich Musical Club.
This portrait was probably painted shortly before Chafy left East Anglia in early I752. In the temple behind him is a statue holding a lyre, the attribute of the Muses of dancing and love poetry. This is probably a reference to Chafy’s forthcoming marriage.