José de Bustamante y Guerra, naval officer and Governor of Montevideo, had extensive military and scientific experience. After taking part in several naval actions, in 1788 he and the frigate captain, Alessandro Malaspina, planned a voyage to the overseas territories of the Spanish Empire that was to be both political and scientific in nature. Following a request by the Minister of the Navy, Antonio Valdes, King Charles III granted permission for the voyage. They traveled through Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Patagonia, the Viceroyalties of Peru and New Granada, California, Alaska, and many other places. Bustamante set sail as second-in-command of the expedition, and as commander of the corvette "Atrevida."
He was appointed Governor of Montevideo in 1796, as well as General Commander of the Navy in Río de la Plata. In 1804, on the return journey to Spain and while in command of a flotilla of 4 frigates ("Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes," "Clara," "Medea," and "Fama"), Bustamante was surprised by an attack by the English off the coast of the Algarve. However, he escaped unharmed because the "Medea" did not suffer the same fate as the "Mercedes." By 1810 he had been sent to the Captaincy General of Guatemala, where he prepared troops and set up the volunteer corps of Ferdinand VII to suppress insurgents during an era of unrest by campaigners for independence in the region. He died in Madrid in 1825.
This half-length portrait shows him in ceremonial uniform, wearing a sash and the insignia of the Order of Santiago, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of San Hermenegildo, and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Isabella the Catholic.