About this artwork

James Balfour was an historian and herald whose writings included Annals of the History of Scotland. He was created Lyon King of Arms (a court office that regulated royal ceremony and heraldry) and knighted in 1630. He played a key role in the arrangements for Charles I’s Scottish coronation in 1633. This unusual portrait shows Balfour in his study. His informal appearance was fashionable for images of young men at this time and contemporary audiences would have understood the pose, with Balfour resting his head on his hand, as a representation of melancholy. He points to his family coat of arms with his other hand, and wears his Lyon badge suspended from a sash over his shoulder, showing the status he gained through research into Scottish history.

Updated before 2020

  • artist:
  • title:
    Sir James Balfour, 1600 - 1657. Historian and Lord Lyon King-of-Arms
  • date created:
    After 1630
  • materials:
    Oil on canvas
  • measurements:
    73.60 x 61.00 cm; Framed: 93.20 x 80.70 x 7.30 cm
  • object type:
  • credit line:
    Purchased 1950
  • accession number:
    PG 1551
  • gallery:
  • depicted:
  • photographer:
    Antonia Reeve
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