Charles Bell began his medical career as an extramural teacher of anatomy in Edinburgh. Bell had been a pupil of the artist David Allan, and in 1798 published a book on anatomy which contained his own illustrations. He moved to London in 1804. This portrait, which depicts him in the dandified costume of the day, may have been painted to help advance his reputation as a fashionable surgeon in the capital. His series of successful surgical appointments in London ensured he became the foremost physician and scientist of his day. He returned to Edinburgh in 1836 and became professor of surgery at the University. He is remembered for his work on the functions of the brain and nervous system.