The sitter was the second and youngest son of John Purchas of Cambridge and entered the Navy in 1803 under the patronage of Admiral Sir Henry Trollope and served the greater part of his time as midshipman under the Hon. Alan HydeGardner in various vessels on the channel and North sea Stations. He was consequently present at the capture of two Spanish line-of-battle ships by Sir Robert Calder on July 22nd 1805; of four French two deckers by Sir Richard Stachan on Novemeber 4th in the same year; and at the surrender of Rear-Admiral Linoison March 13th 1806. In July 1809 whilst serving on the Bellerophon, Purchas assisted the destruction of seven Russian gun-boats and other vessels near Percola Point in the Gulf of Finland. On 9th December he was promoted to Lieutenant on the Erebus.
His subsequent appointments were varied and just as adventurous taking him to the Leeward Islands and Jamaica. He was later promoted a Commander and then Captain having fought in African waters against Brazilian, Dutch and Spanish vessels as well as bringing back to England valuable cargo from St. Helena and Ascencion. He married in August 1820 Jane Hills, a niece of the novelist Frederick Marryat. His eldest son John became a Church of England clergyman and religious controversialist. In the portrait presented here we see Purchas as a young officer depicted on leave in 1812.
Josiah Slater exhibited at the Royal Academy frequently between 1806 and 1833. He established a successful society portrait practice offering client’s an attractive style influenced by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Examples of his work can be found at the British Museum, London and the Fitzwilliam, Cambridge as well as various English country