William Hogarth is best known for his biting, satirical engravings lampooning the fashion and mores of 18th-century English society. Most of his portraits are dated between 1738 and 1743, when he found a ready market for individual likenesses, and display the same keen sense of observation that made him an excellent satirist. The subject of this portrait, John Hamilton (b. 1713/14), was a captain in the Royal Navy who campaigned for better conditions for his men. Hamilton'’s informal pose, accented by his unbuttoned coat, creates a lively, individual presence. The portrait remained in the Hamilton family until it was acquired by Henry Clay Frick.