The sitter was the only surviving son of deposed King James II and VII and his second wife, Mary of Modena. Due to the Glorious Revolution which took place shortly after James's birth, he grew up in exile with his family in France. On his father's death in 1701, his cousin, Louis XIV, openly acknowledged him as the rightful King of England, Scotland and Ireland, adding strength to the Jacobite cause, which culminated in the unsuccessful 'Fifteen' Jacobite rising in Scotland. He spent the remainder of his life in Rome, marrying Maria Clementina Sobieska (see previous lot) in 1719. They had two sons, Charles Edward (1720-1788), known as the Young Pretender, or Bonnie Prince Charlie, and Henry Benedict (1725-1807), Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.
The present work appears to be a variant of that by Martin van Meytens the Younger (1695-1770), painted in 1725 when the artist was briefly in Rome (whereabouts currently unknown). The British artist E. Gill (d. 1749) made several copies of this portrait (including one in the collection of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, inv. no. PG 1836), as well as the matching portrait of Maria Clementina, which were disseminated to Jacobite supporters and widely copied.