Sir James Hope Grant started his military career with the 9th Lancers in 1826. He served as an officer in most of the major campaigns in China and India, and eventually advanced to the rank of Major-General. Grant famously claimed that one of his promotions was the result of his performance skills on the cello, as he entertained the General on the boring sea voyage to China. This full-length painting is one of several of him by his elder brother, the famous society portraitist Sir Francis Grant. It was painted when James Hope Grant was on sick leave in Britain for three years. The generalised exotic background with palm trees represents India, where Grant was serving at the time. The decorations on his chest include his Companion of the Order of the Bath and three campaign medals.