Born in a Quaker community in rural Pennsylvania, West studied art in Philadelphia. He moved to London in 1763 and specialized in neoclassical history paintings and portraits of the elite. Captain Christopher Codrington Bethell was a member of the British Parliament. He also owned sugar plantations in the Caribbean and opposed the abolition of slavery. West provides great detail in the painting, including the reflections on Bethell’s buttons and the intricate lace of his cuffs.