Sir Edward Littleton was Solicitor-General to Charles I, 1634-40; Chief Justice of Common Pleas, January 1640-January 1641; Lord Keeper, 1641-45.
Painted in his robes, and wearing the chain of office, of the Chief Justice of the Commons Pleas; the dress of the sitter dates the painting to the last eighteen months of van Dyck’s life. The picture was probably painted to celebrate Littleton’s preferment to the Chief Justiceship; various copies were undertaken for circulation among friends.
Autograph versions exist in a private collection (see Barnes, et al., Van Dyck, p. 553), and at Hagley Hall, Staffordshire. There are four known copies: in the Harvard Law School Art Collection; the Inner Temple, London; the National Portrait Gallery; and this present version of the head and shoulders (noted in Barnes, et al., Van Dyck, p. 553).
Literature: Lionel Cust, Anthony van Dyck: An Historical Study of his Life and Works (London, 1900), p. 278; this version listed Susan J. Barnes, Nora de Poorter, Oliver Millar, and Horst Vey, Van Dyck: a Complete Catalogue of the Paintings (New Haven and London, 2004), pp. 553-4.