This work is considered the masterpiece among portrait paintings by Watanabe Kazan (1793-1841). Kazan was a retainer from the Tahara Domain in Mikawa (in present-day Aichi Prefecture) on duty in Edo (now Tokyo). While working to reform the shogunal government he was arrested, along with several other scholars of Dutch studies, during the so-called "Suppression of the Barbarian Studies Group" (J. bansha no goku). He was placed under house arrest in Tahara where, at the age of forty-nine, he committed suicide.
Kazan had studied painting first with Kaneko Kinryô (c. 1756-1817) and then with Kinryô's teacher, the renowned artist Tani Bunchô (1763-1840). He later incorporated principles of perspective and shading learned from Western art to create his own original style.
Takami Senseki (1785-1858) was a scholar of Dutch studies and a chief retainer of the Koga Domain (present-day Ibaraki Prefecture). In 1837, the feudal lord of Koga succeeded in quelling a rebellion led by Ôshio Heihachirô (1793-1837). In connection with this victory, Senseki paid a visit to Seigan-ji Temple in the Asakusa District of Edo as the lord's representative. There is a story that Kazan painted this portrait of Senseki dressed in formal robes and headgear at the time of this visit, when the artist was forty-five. The face is depicted in a realistic manner with subtle brushwork and delicate shading, while the robe is rendered in broader, more expressive brushstrokes.