Sir James Burrow was the son of Thomas Burrow of Clapham, Surrey. He was called to the bar at the Inner Temple in 1725, and in 1733 obtained the post of Master of the Crown Office which he retained for life. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1737, and of the Society of Antiquaries in 1741. It is likely that in these circles he become acquainted with several of Devis's patrons, including Sir Matthew Featherstonaugh and John Byron. He was knighted in 1773 and died at his home, Starborough Castle, Lingfield, Surrey, in 1782.
Sir James is known to have commissioned three portraits from Devis; one of these is in a private collection in Wales, and another, also in a private collection, shows the sitter under an oak tree in a romantic coastal landscape, signed and dated 1749, also 24 x 16 inches (S. Paviere, op.cit. no.19). The present work relates to, or is perhaps itself the third commission, known from a line engraving dated 1780 by James Basire, showing Sir James as Master of the Crown Office.