As a child, Bartholomew Beale assisted his mother Mary Beale in her studio. It was expected that he too would become a painter. The bust upon which Bartholomew rests his hand in this portrait probably alludes to this. It appears to represent the ancient Greek poet, Homer. Blind and impoverished, Homer had long been considered the embodiment of artistic integrity, because he was true to his genius and did not seek to gain wealth from his art. As such, Homer would have acted as the perfect model for an aspiring young artist. Yet Bartholomew followed a different path and in 1680 entered Clare College, Cambridge to study medicine. In 1687, he settled in Coventry to practise as a physician until his untimely death in 1698.