Nicholas Pearse was a clothier who had premises at 41 Lothbury in the City of London, and also two country seats at Woodford in Essex and at Heddington near Calne in Wiltshire. He traded in London under the name of Pearse and Bowden and was also manager of Sun Fire Insurance from 1767 till his death. By his wife Sarah he had three sons, the eldest of whom was John Pearse, one time Governor of the Bank of England and M.P. for Devizes. He married the heiress Anne Phillimore.
The portrait dates from c. 1760, and is an early work from Gainsborough's Bath period. Pearse no doubt visited Bath from his house at Heddington. He may possibly be related to William Pearse (1751-1842) with whom Gainsborough corresponded towards the end of his life.
It has been pointed out that the sitter's pose and costume are very similar to that shown in Gainsborough's portrait of Mr Smith-Piggott of Weston-super-Mare which also dates from the same period.