John Breckinridge was born in Augusta County, near Staunton, Virginia, on December 2, 1760. He studied at what is now Washington and Lee University and at the College of William and Mary. In 1780 he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, but because of his youth, was not permitted to serve. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1785.
He was elected Representative to the Third Congress, but resigned in 1792 before commencement of the congressional term to move to Kentucky. He served in the U.S. House and Senate, resigning in August 1805 to accept President Jefferson's offer of the post of Attorney General. He held the position until his death at Lexington, Kentucky, on December 14, 1806.
Conant was born in Chelsea, Vermont, in 1821 and died in 1915. He became well known for his portraits of leading statesmen while visiting in Washington, D. C., in the 1880's. He painted, among others, Lincoln, Sherman, Sumpter and Edward Bates , the twenty-sixth Attorney General. It was during this time (1863) that the Breckinridge painting was commissioned. It is obvious, since Breckinridge had been deceased for 63 years, that Conant was copying from an earlier picture.
Conant was also an archeologist, an author, and founder of the Western Academy of Art in St. Louis, Missouri.