Born in Staffordshire Thomas Summerfield joined the 83rd Regiment of Foot as a private in 1793 and was promoted through the ranks over a period of 27 years to full Major in 1820. During this time he served in the West Indies (1796-1802) and later in the Peninsula campaign (1809-1814) at the battle of Talavera, which saw the aged General Cuesta of Spain join forces with the British under Sir Arthur Wellesley. Almost immediately relations with his British allies proved difficult on a number of issues, but none more so than after the conflict, for though the Anglo-Spanish army won (at a cost) Cuesta refused to co-operate with Wellesley’s tactics and abandoned the British soldiers left in his care to the French. Summerfield being one such soldier would have been incarcerated in one of the eastern border fortresses and towns of France for the duration of the Peninsula campaign. Summerfield joined the 83rd Foot as Quartermaster in September 1796 and was promoted Ensign 4th December 1798; Lieutenant 20th February 1800; Captain 19th September 1804; brevet Major 4th June 1814 and Major 21st December 1820. He died in Limmerick, Ireland in 1833.
Recorded as previously being by Richard Livesay (Witt Library, Courtauld Institute, London) an artist known to have enjoyed considerable success working on small portraits at the end of the 18th century, it shows marked differences in approach in various ways. The portrait here is executed in a similar manner but with the heavy use of shadow and light perhaps more strongly echoes the work of Irish painter Thomas Hickey.