Edmund Davis was born in Australia in 1862 and attended school at the Lycée Chaptal in Paris as a pupil of the flower painter Victor Leclaire. He abandoned his artistic path aged 17 to go to South Africa where he made his fortune trading in ostrich feathers, guano and mining. He married his cousin, Mary Zilla Halford, with whom he shared a passion for painting and the couple settled in London. Their art collection included ancient sculpture and paintings by Rembrandt, Hogarth, Reynolds and Gainsborough. They also collected modern art by Burne-Jones, Rossetti and Rodin and bequeathed a large part of this exceptional collection to a few chosen institutions such as the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris and the National Gallery of South Africa in Cape Town. The bust shown in McEvoy's painting is the one that had been pointed-out by the Davis' friends Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon in the window of a shop on Piccadilly where it was unattributed; it was discovered to be a masterpiece by the French eighteenth century sculptor Houdon and valued at £20,000.