Jane Bedford was the wife of Grosvenor Bedford (1708–1771), a close friend of Sir Robert Walpole, under whom he served as deputy usher of the Exchequer, and a cousin of Henry Fox, 1st Baron Holland (1705–1774). In 1732 Sir Robert appointed her husband Collector of Customs at Philadelphia, a sinecure he held until his death. The couple had twelve children and Jane is depicted here, circa
1755, with their two eldest sons, Charles and Richard. Bedford was an important patron of Hayman and commissioned a number of portraits of himself, his family and his friends from the artist. A self portrait of Hayman himself, in the act of painting, together with Bedford, is in the National Portrait Gallery (inv. no. NPG 217); and a portrait of Jane, her husband and their eldest son is in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter; a portrait of their son Charles, seen in this painting, is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (inv. no. B.1-2016).
Hayman was an important figure in the mid eighteenth-century London art world. A contemporary of Hogarth, with whom he was favourably compared, he taught at the St Martin's Lane Academy, where he trained the young Thomas Gainsborough and was a founding member of the Royal Academy in 1768. Hayman was also one of the principal artists involved in producing decorations for the supper boxes at Vauxhall Gardens between the 1740s and 1760s, which were perhaps seen by more people in London than any other paintings at that time.