John Tabor was the son of John Tabor (b.1630) and Rebecca Root of Panfield, Essex who married in 1655. Baptised in 1656, the present portrait was painted sometime after his marriage to Elizabeth House in 1681. The Tabor family have been landowners and farmers in rural Essex for many centuries.
Mrs Mary Beale (1633 – 1699) arguably became one of the most important portrait painters of 17th century England, and has been described as the first professional female English painter. Born in Barrow, Suffolk, the daughter of John Cradock, a Puritan rector, she married Charles Beale, a cloth merchant from London, in 1652, at the age of 18. Her father and her husband were both amateur painters, her father being a member of the Painter-Stainers’ Company. She became a semi-professional portrait painter in the 1650s and 1660s, working from her home, first in Covent Garden and later in Fleet Street and became well acquainted with the local artistic talents of Robert Walker and Peter Lely. However it was not until the 1670s when she established a studio in Pall Mall, that success really came to her; her husband working as her assistant, mixing her paints and keeping her accounts.
Her later work is heavily influenced by Sir Peter Lely, being mainly small portraits or copies of his work. This has resulted in much confusion over attributions in the past, when prior to much recent scholarship, her work was often passed of as by Lely, as with the present portrait. Also certain distinctive features of her work make it difficult to successfully attribute this painting absolutely to her. Therefore this portrait must remain as being by an artist who was clearly influenced by both Beale and Lely and would have been working closely within their artistic circle.