The present portrait is likely to be the prototype for the portrait of the sitter, listed as type 'A' in John Ingamells' The English Episcopal Portrait 1559-1835: A Catalogue, London, 1981, pp.219-220), of which there are versions at Christ Church, Oxford, acquired by the college c.1609-10, shortly after the sitter's death in 1609, and a later 19th Century copy at the Bishop's House, Ely. The present work differs from these later versions as here the bible is shown in his left hand, and the coat-of-arms is in the opposite (right) corner, incorporating a more complex configuration than the simple three crown arms of Ely as found in the later versions. The sitter appears somewhat younger and more portly, with a shorter beard.
Martin Heton was educated at Westminster School, and graduated from Christ Church, Oxford, in 1574, acquring his M.A. in 1578. In 1588 he was appointed Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, and was Dean of Winchester from 1589-1599. He was consecrated as Bishop of Ely from 1600 to his death in 1609. Sir John Harrington, a courtier to King James I, recorded that Heton, a large man, was admired for his eloquence: '[Whilst] fat men were wont to make lean sermons, his were not lean, but larded with much good learning' (Harington, 2.111). He was buried in Ely Cathedral, with a life-size alabaster recumbant effigy.