Asaf-ud-daula succeeded his father Shuja-ud-daula as Nawab Wazir of Oudh in 1775. He moved the court from Faizabad to Lucknow, where he proceeded to build numerous monuments in and around the city.
A contemporary observed of him, 'He is mild in manners, generous to extravagance, affably polite and engaging in his conduct; but he has not great mental powers, though his heart is good'. His reputation for lavish expenditure, combined with a noted penchant for all things British, encouraged artists, including Johan Zoffany and Ozias Humphry, to visit Lucknow and seek their fortune. While both artists produced work that was rapturously received by the Nawab Wazir, neither artist received more than a small fraction in settlement of their accounts. This failure was no doubt the result of a combination of misgovernment and a complicated web of debt, involving the overly influential begums of Oudh and the scheming forces of the East India Company.
The Nawab was bored with sitting for portraits and therefore arranged for Ozias Humphry and Charles Smith to paint him jointly on the 19th April 1786. The Nawab sat for the two artists for forty minutes 'without any apparent impatience'. They depicted him wearing a white muslin jama with a gold and brown stripped cummerbund and a scarlet turban, as shown in this miniature.
Another version of this composition was sold at Sotheby's, London, 16 April 2018, lot 48.