William Munro had an impressive career as a soldier at the same time as cultivating a considerable reputation as an amateur botanist. Service in India, Canada, the West Indies and the Crimea provided him with the ideal opportunity to collect and study local plants. He established botanic gardens at some of the military stations where he served, and encouraged his soldiers to grow their own vegetables.
This portrait was probably painted in 1844 when Munro was stationed at Agra. The artist, Jivan Ram, was well known amongst British patrons. At the time it was something of a novelty for an Indian artist to work in a European style with oil paint on canvas.