Vicente Tofiño de San Miguel was a Spanish cosmographer and sailor, born in Cádiz in 1732. After several years in the armed forces, he was made a professor of mathematics at the Royal Company of Midshipmen and was its director from 1768 to 1789. During his tenure, he carried out astronomical observations alongside his teaching work, which made him very popular with European cosmographers who visited him in Cádiz to learn more about his findings. His observational highlights included an annular solar eclipse and a transit of Venus across the sun. He devoted himself to touring the Spanish coastline with his officers to publicize the famous Atlas Marítimo de España one of the most significant works in Spanish cartography.
The portrait was commissioned by the Naval Museum in 1852 as a copy of a lost original. The subject is shown in the foreground wearing his squadron leader uniform, which was worn by the Spanish army and navy alike. Each and every aspect alludes to his position and studies. In his right hand, he holds a compass symbolizing his mathematical research and astronomical measurements. Behind him, a magnetic needle lies on top of two of his works, and a frigate can be seen sailing in the distance.