Born in Aberdeenshire, James Byres's Jacobite family left Scotland after the failure of the 1745 Rising. Educated in France, he was in Rome by 1758, training first as a painter and then as an architect. He established himself as a leading art dealer and professional guide in the city. In this portrait, Byres is shown second from the left, with his sister Isabella, Mrs Robert Sandilands, beside him. Her husband had died in 1775 and she is shown wearing mourning. On the far right of the canvas is Charles Norton, Byres's business partner. Byres's parents, Patrick and Janet, are the two central figures. The profile portrait above Norton's head may be of Prince Charles Edward Stuart.