"[A] very fine gentleman and a most accomplished courtier, and after having spent, in a very jovial life, about 400,000£, which, upon a strict computation, he received from the crown, he left not a house or acre of land to be remembered by," wrote a friend and colleague about James Hay, first Earl of Carlisle, well-known diplomat and favorite courtier at the courts of James I and Charles I.
Portraits hanging in the famous gallery collected by Edward Hyde, First Earl of Clarendon, commonly included an inscription identifying the illustrious man, like that at the lower left in this painting. Clarendon's goal was historical, not aesthetic. Friends gave him paintings and he commissioned original works, but most often he commissioned copies of already existing portraits. In this case, Clarendon probably commissioned an English painter to copy an earlier portrait of Carlisle, perhaps one by Anthony Van Dyck, who often posed sitters against similar tapestry curtains and columns. Carlisle's blue ribbon and medal were probably added at a later date.