Cosmo Alexander was a Scottish portrait painter. A supporter of James Edward Stuart's claim to the English and Scottish thrones, Alexander spent much of his life overseas following the defeat of the Jacobite cause in 1745. The collapse of the rebellion led to a surge of Scottish immigration to all 13 of the American colonies, including a sizeable number to Virginia.
In 1766, Alexander moved to Philadelphia and cultivated a following among Scottish families who had relocated to the American colonies. As was the custom for artists during this period, Alexander traveled extensively, undertaking commissions including these portraits of John and Rosanna Dixon and their daughter Mary. The Dixons lived in Williamsburg, Virginia, before relocating to the new state capital at Richmond in 1780.