Digby enjoyed a prominent political career, serving as Secretary of State to Charles I during the first English Civil War. He was also a poet and wrote a number of plays. He wrote a poem in praise of the beauty of his sister-in-law, Lady Venetia Digby, when she died. Van Dyck's painting of her on her deathbed hangs nearby.
This is a good example of what has come to be known as a ‘swagger portrait’. The face, painted in a startlingly ‘real’ manner, is set off by the generalised glamour of Digby’s cloak, swept over the shoulder to suggest a Roman toga, and painted with broad, bravura brushwork.