This very interesting scene, which may be dated early in 1755, is thus anticipated by Mr. Walpole, in a Letter to Mr. Richard Bentley, Dec. 24, 1754. "The Russian Ambassador is to give a Masquerade, for the birth of the little great Prince (the Czar, Paul I.) The King lends him Somerset House: he wanted to borrow the Palace over against me, and sent to ask it of the Cardinal-nephew (Henry Earl of Lincoln, nephew to the Duke of Newcastle, to whose title he succeeded); who replied, 'Not for half Russia!'"
The Print abounds with real Portraits of Personages of the first distinction; of whom several may be identified by the following extract from the Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. XXV. page 89. "Feb. 6. The Russian Ambassador gave a most magnificent Ball at Somerset House. His Majesty came a little after eight, dressed in a black domino, tie-wig, and gold-laced hat. Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales was in a blue and silver robe, and her head greatly ornamented with jewels. The Prince of Wales was in a pink and silver dress. Prince Edward in a pink satin waistcoat, with a belt adorned with diamonds. Princess Augusta in a rich gold stuff. The Duke (of Cumberland) was in a Turkish dress, with a large bunch of diamonds in his turban. A noble Lady shone in the habit of a Nymph, embroidered over with stars studded with brilliants, to the amount of £100,000. In short, the dresses of the whole Assembly were the richest that could possibly be devised upon such an occasion; and the whole entertainment, particularly the dessert, was the most elegant that expence could furnish. Few exhibitions of this kind have equalled it, none excelled it. The number of persons were above a thousand."
In a subsequent Letter, Mr. Walpole says, "At the Russian Masquerade, there were all the Beauties, and all the Diamonds, and not a few of the Uglies, of London. The Duke, like Osman the Third, seemed in the centre of his new Seraglio, and I believe my Lady and I thought that my Lord **** was the Chief Eunuch. My Lady Coventry was dressed in a great style, and looked better than ever. Lady Betty Spencer, like Rubens' Wife (not the common one with the hat), had all the bloom and bashfulness, and wildness of youth, with all the countenance of all the former Marlboroughs. Lord Delawar was an excellent mask, from a picture at Kensington of Queen Elizabeth's Porter. Lady Caroline Petersham, powdered with diamonds and crescents for a Turkish Slave, was still extremely handsome. The Hazard was excessively deep, to the astonishment of some French Men of Quality who are here, and who, I believe, from what they saw that night, will not write to their Court to dissuade their Armaments, on its not being worth their while to attack so beggarly a Nation. Our Fleet is as little despicable."
The original Painting formed part of the fine Collection of the late Roger Palmer, Esq. on whose death it devolved, with the rest of a very ample property, to his only Sister, Elizabeth, Wife of the brave and benevolent Captain Joseph Budworth, who assumed the name and arms of Palmer.