Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
James I and VI (1566-1625)
This is the earliest single-figure state portrait showing the monarch in coronation robes to survive in the Royal Collection. Painted by the Flemish artist, Paul Van Somer, it was commissioned directly from the artist by James I.
It seems likely that James I made certain iconographical demands on the artist. He is presented as an imposing monarchical presence, the orb in his left hand and the sceptre in his right, crowned and sporting the collar and badge of the Order of the Garter. He stands in front of a window within Whitehall Palace with a direct view towards the Banqueting House.
James I had commissioned the architect Inigo Jones to design the Banqueting House in June 1619 and it was not completed until early 1622. James I seemingly wanted the building to be included in the background of this portrait despite the fact that it was incomplete. The King was proud of his involvement in this innovative work of architecture, in which Inigo Jones quoted authoritatively from the language of Classical architecture. The Banqueting House was not completed at the time of the painting, which explains some discrepancies between the painted representation and the building as we know it today. Whitehall Palace was destroyed by fire in 1698 but the Banqueting House remains intact.
Text adapted from J. Scott, The Royal Portrait: Image and Impact, London 2010