James VI with a Sparrow Hawk
Unknown, previously attributed to Arnold Bronckorst (active 1565–1583)
About 1574, oil on panel
The artist has sensitively captured the boy king, at around eight-years-old, wearing adult dress of a black doublet, black hat with jewelled hatband and white feather plume. He holds a small sparrowhawk on his gloved hand, which alludes to the princely pastime of falconry. In this period falconry and hunting were considered appropriate sports for royalty and the nobility to take part in and James became an accomplished and enthusiastic horse rider and hunter. He particularly enjoyed hunting with a crossbow.
Falconry, along with hunting, became one of James’s great passions. From a young age he spent a great deal of time outdoors, especially at Falkland Palace, in the Kingdom of Fife, enjoying these princely pursuits. This falconry glove and purse are believed to have belonged to James. Certainly, the decoration and use of fine materials – gold, enamel and precious thread - befit a royal owner. They feature intricate Jacobean needlework and include natural motifs, such as brambles and mistletoe.