Wilhelm Tischbein was born into a family of German artists. After studying with his uncle, he travelled through Holland and Germany working as a portrait painter before establishing himself as a court artist in Berlin. He moved to Italy in 1782, where he met and befriended the great German poet, Goethe. Tischbein's most famous work was a portrait of his friend, sitting amongst ruins in the Roman countryside, painted in 1787, the year the two men travelled to Naples together. Tischbein decided to settle in Naples where he was appointed Director of the Neapolitan Academy of Fine Art in 1789. He returned to Germany after the French occupation of Naples in 1799.