Macpherson achieved international acclaim when he published ‘Fingal: an Ancient Epic Poem in Six Books’ in 1762, and ‘Temora, an Epic Poem in Eight Books’ the following year. Macpherson presented these poems as authentic translations of an original oral work by a legendary Gaelic bard, Ossian. They turned out to be hugely influential -inspiring artists, composers and writers. The poems evoked a coherent, mythic world, equivalent to the classical legends and characters of Homer. However, controversy soon followed, with detractors claiming that Macpherson had written the works himself. It is now believed he used existing Gaelic ballads, adding themes and references from other sources. This painting is an early copy of a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds which was painted in 1772.